b h a g . n e t   visual and conceptual exchange   b h a g . n e t

bhag cover page                   Return to current word from bhag                      


November 9, 2003


by John Clay, editor-in-chief

A few days ago, a friend who also is a talented artist told me she was doing everything with her time except painting. Why might that be? She asked what I thought. All artists and writers know the experience of not having enough time for our art. But we also know that sometimes it's not by accident, not beyond our control. My friend, like me, has devoted much of her life to art, and loves her artworks as well as the process of making them—never mind that, as with any love affair, aggravation and joy take their turns. And, like me, she has found only limited success in getting her works out into the world, into public spaces or galleries or homes. I suggested this might be the cause of her reluctance to make more art, that she is waiting for outside demand before making more supply—an explanation, not a justification. Our lives will amount to little if we live them only according to the decisions and demands of others. When we die, we must make our own accounting; and for that very reason, so must we too while we live.

To be responsive to others is right and natural. Long ago Aristotle made the famous observation that we human beings are social animals. We need each other for happiness, inspiration, and prosperity. Bhag.net is built on the principle that feedback is essential for our development as artists and writers. But how to respond to feedback is the crucial issue. Feedback is neither pure enlightenment nor plain rubbish. Just as others sort through our art and make a variety of judgments and choices about what works and what doesn't, so must we sort through their feedback and choose what, among their reactions or comments, works and what doesn't. We must never be ruled by feedback from others. The final choice—what to do, how to do it—rests with each one of us alone. And that principle is built into bhag as well: Our editors provide feedback but leave the decision to the artist or writer to incorporate all or some or none of what we say.

As for my friend, I suggested that even though she wasn't getting the active feedback she wanted from others—although people love her paintings, people are slow to exhibit or buy them—she shouldn't let them decide her life for her. Her paintings, and the process of making them, inspires her spirit and refines her sensibilities, contributing to the kind of person she is, to how she sees and what she thinks. How can that not be reason enough to keep painting?

© 2003 John Clay

Return to current word from bhag