What makes me ecstatic about being an artist?

"Child" - Oil Painting on linen © 2010 Janice Tanton. All Rights Reserved.
"Child" - Oil Painting on linen © 2010 Janice Tanton. All Rights Reserved.

I picked up a meaty book from Amazon just before Christmas which led me to the author’s site. After reading it through the holidays, I subsequently signed up for a fantastic artist-specific coaching course by Colorado resident, Alyson B. Stanfield, which I’m about half way through now.

As part of the journey, we had a “rest and reflect” day yesterday, and were given the question to ponder:

“What makes you ecstatic about being an artist?”

I took the rest and reflection portion of this day rather seriously, as it’s not often something that I usually afford myself.

Granting myself some articulate the answer to that question brought me this writing which I share with you today. I am curious about your thoughts on the role of the artist, and if you ARE an artist, do you consider your work a social responsibility? I mean….beyond the obvious joy of creation?

Here is what I wrote. I would love to have your responses posted on my blog.


January 18, 2011 – What Makes Me Feel Ecstatic About Being An Artist?

I am humbled about being a practicing artist. Why? It is a weighty responsibility, not to be taken lightly. I have the opportunity to observe, reflect and change the culture around me. I am an explorer, finding little-known pathways to new insights into the territory of the human condition. This can be an awesome challenge and burden, and it needs to be handled with care. I change people’s lives by inspiring thought, linked to action. I effect significant consequences by creating and so I must always be mindful about my choices.

As taught to me by my Elders, I am reminded that my practice as an artist is a gift from the Creator and I am a messenger with responsibilities. We are all messengers. We all have to listen deeply to what is inside of us and who we are in that melee of thoughts. Deeply listening to what those true messages are that need to be delivered is my responsibility.

I can choose to elicit deep emotion through my work as an artist. Emotion is an actionable response to something that touches core values of individuals, cultures, governments and organizations. Eliciting deep emotion manifests itself in many consequential forms – passionate, wonderful, violent and judging.  Holding sacred this gift, I am required to be grounded, responsible and mindful in my intent. By doing this, I create space for people to find their own voice, so it is a passive intervention at times, and at others – an aggressive intention. This is the rare gift of the artist, and an awesome, catalytic tool of change at it’s maturity.

I have been ecstatically inspired by my ancestors and relations – contemporary and historic masters. The exhibition, “Pop Life” at the National Gallery in Ottawa opened up my heart to the vast scope and intentful effect art can have on popular culture and how artists are Leaders, in effect, elected by the Creator to hold the mirror to humanity. Beautifully curated exhibitions change my perspective on what is possible, and how to listen, observe, reflect, present and change. The act of curation itself reminds me of the choices that need to be made – sometimes subtle, sometimes brutal, but always with purpose.

I love and respect the work of the contemporary and historical masters as messengers and mentors that have come before me. They all share something with me, and I am part of that continuum.

Louis Riel said:

“My people will sleep for 100 years but when they awake, it will be the artists that give them back their spirit.”

This is a universal truth and responsibility – that as an artist, I must do what is right for the People.

I use every sense to make love to my fate. I listen to the symphony of the earth through the orchestra of all life-forms. I dance in the dark and the light. I taste the sour and sweet spirit of hot emotion. I listen, and then I must I must listen more until it is time for me to speak. Only then, do I find voice, choose well and speak with responsibility in artful ways that have cascading impact….for my time in this lifeform is short and this gift is meant to be shared.

Being…. is ecstasy for me!

-Janice Iniskimaki Tanton
Full Time Human Being


So….I am curious about your thoughts on the role of the artist, and if you ARE an artist, do you consider your work a social responsibility?

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Janice: Thank you for sharing these personal insights. Your thoughts are full of deep reflection.

  2. Vanessa

    I am a part-time artist as I work full time in another career but my passion and dedication to my art makes me approach as though it’s full time. I can’t live a single day without it. So indeed I think I’m ecstatic about being an artist 🙂
    I love what you typed above: “Emotion is an actionable response to something that touches core values of individuals, cultures, governments and organizations. Eliciting deep emotion manifests itself in many consequential forms”… it’s so true. What the artist develops truly comes from a deep place. Beautifully written!
    I see my art as a reflection of my experiences and reflections. After some understanding I present them for other’s to learn from and appreciate. I find my art is very much drawn to the transitions women go through. We lead very challenging lives with soooo much responsibility for others and we do so much on our own with little support from the world around us. We’re just “expected to”…
    So in terms of social responsibility I’m aiming to bring the importance and value of women to light and to let women know it’s all okay. Behind all of those responsibilities we’re people with needs and emotion in constant transition. We’re beautiful works of art!

  3. Jaeson Cardiff

    Hi Janice: Great read. I am not an artist per se, but an innovator that thinks function should follow form. Certain aspects of my employment involve an air of artistry as well. If you look at the mechanical aspects of a home built in the last 40 years or so, you begin to see a removal of flare for simple function.

    I want my work to be marvelled years after my time has ended as I do when I replace work that was performed in some cases over 100 years ago by hands long since departed. Its art to me. Maybe not so much for others.

  4. Becky Joy

    Janice, this is beautifully written. I haven’t taken the same workshop from Allyson, but certainly have been considering it. I think you may be pushing me in that direction.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Becky, thank you so much for your kind comments. Time spent in any of Alyson Stanfield’s workshops have been well worth it. I’ve enjoyed every moment, exchange and insight through her vast network of resources, excellent questions that really make me think and practical tools to get me there. She’s an artist’s angel.

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