Is it beauty or expression that you love?

For me, it’s a joy to make beauty out of a “mess” on the canvas. I love nothing better than to make things beautiful, whether transforming a canvas, graphics, or a room.

I hadn’t thought that hard about whether other artists are this way.

Then one day my friend Greta remarked, “Well you artists, you love to express!”

I was taken aback. I realized for the first time as it came out of my mouth, “Some artists love to express. Others love to make things beautiful.”

Julie Bernstein Engelmann, “Like Rain in the Desert,” 28″H x 34″W, Acrylic and latex on unprimed canvas

Thus began a period of observation and introspection.

For one thing, the distinction between expression and making things beautiful led to an awareness of my superpower, helping other artists to see and bring out the beauty & spirit in their unfinished paintings.

For another though, I began to wonder whether my artistic expression was actually locked inside of me. I had gone through a long process to free my verbal expression after an unsafe childhood, but had thought my art haven was not subject to the same suppression.

Meanwhile, my longstanding fascination with intuitive painting came to the foreground. What would show up in my paintings if I were truly willing to express freely?

For many years I had enjoyed a book considered the mother lode of wisdom on intuitive painting: Life, Paint and Passion, Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression, by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley. Then last October I had the opportunity to attend Stewart Cubley’s workshop, The Painting Experience.

Stay tuned to hear about my expressive Painting Experience in my next blog post.

And let me know which you love more – expressing or making things beautiful – if you had to choose. I’m curious!

5 thoughts on “Is it beauty or expression that you love?

  1. Julie Post author

    Here are some comments I’ve received via email, since the commenting here isn’t working right:
    Thank you each for your beautiful – and expressive – thoughts!!

    “Hi Julie
    Easy answer for me and The Answer is, ‘making it beautiful’.”
    – Don C

    “hi Julie,
    Most definitely, like you, I love being a bringer of beauty. That’s what friends have said about me. i enjoy creating something beautiful out of ‘nothing’.”
    – Anne L

    “Hi, Julie –
    Even thought I’m not a painting artist, I totally LOVE your comments!! I really love to make things beautiful, as you said, but also realized that the beautiful is more a feeling; perhaps harmonious for me equates to beautiful. But I also LOVE to express myself through doing things with my hands and become unbalanced feeling if I go too long without doing something creative. It’s like an energy coming from within that just has to be expressed in some fashion. So guess I like to do both – express and make beautiful! Keep your emails coming – they’re very uplifting. Great way to start the day, any day!!
    Much love –

    Dianne, I love what you are saying about the feeling of “harmonious.” That is exactly how I feel too – harmony is what I truly see or seek behind beauty – very good point! A future article 🙂 Thank you Dianne! -Julie

  2. Julie Post author

    Here’s another vote for beauty:

    “I’m sure I definitely like to make things beautiful. I can ‘express’ all day as I paint but if it isn’t beautiful to me eye, it’s either not finished or a disaster.”

    Marva, I love your very clear statement, really an ultimatum! Thank you! -Julie

  3. Julie Post author

    Here are four more much-appreciated comments:

    “I’m right at this cross road – so I loved what you wrote and look forward to more! My inclination is to make beautiful… but something inside desperately wants to express. I’m hoping I find a way to do both, again.”
    – Alita

    “my answer is BEAUTY – I have always loved & admired your work , your approach & your attitude way back from the workshop I organized years ago in Murrysville, PA for the East Suburban Artists League” – Patti

    “Hi, Julie, I would definitely vote for making things beautiful. I both struggle with and lose myself in the placing of paint and other media on paper/canvas/whatever, but the part that really thrills me is when the elements all come together or the paint blends just so or the tiny “splotch” lands in just the right place and the whole composition reaches that satisfying point where beauty is revealed. An interesting thing to think about. Thanks for the challenge.”
    – Cindy

    Cindy, I love your vivid appreciation for the experience of the artistic moment. – Julie

    “I love painting expressively !!!” – Julieann

    Finally one vote for expression! – Julie

  4. Julie Post author

    A great testimonial for expression here:

    “Hi Julie, Flo Johns here. I am all about the expression. The business name for my worship flags Is ‘Joyful Expression Flags.’ When being used during worship they are like a moving visual abstract. I call the expression, ‘The language of movement shape and color’.

    Whether I am designing a garment or a fabric sculpture, for me it is also about the expression of the fabric, shape , colors and the prints. I endeavor to express, to say: with my sculptures a story, an emotion, a declaration, perhaps a spiritual consideration.
    Even the garments express a flowing light hearted freedom by their various shapes: as well as expressing
    personality, character and flare by color and print.

    After the full ‘visual tangible expression’ there is always a beauty that results. But I am about the expression, I ride into the beauty of the unknown as I ‘Joyfully Creatively Express’. Thank you for stirring up such beautiful thoughts.
    Many joyful expressions to you’,
    Flo Johns”

    Flo, I agree – your clothing is a truly beautiful expression! – Julie

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