“Stillness” — © Jed Smith, 2020 (oil on canvas)

I’ve just completed my latest painting. It’s a big one (39.5″ x 60″) Painting this subject has been immensely gratifying. While the intricate play of shadows was anything but simple, the subject was incredibly soothing to render. More and more I’m letting my heart and intuition guide me as to what to paint. And often it’s only in retrospect that I understand my choice of subjects.

This painting represents, for me, stepping into a quiet mind.

This scene comes from one of my favorite places on earth, the island of Folegandros in Greece. Living in Italy makes hopping over to Greece pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. If you don’t know Folegandros, it is a blissfully serene island with cliffs and views that can stun a person into silence. Its remote location and the absence of an airport help keep this island free from being overrun by tourists.

Sp. when I sat before the blank canvas and considered what I wanted to paint, the photos I’d taken of this setting shoved other candidates aside. For those of you who follow my work, you’ll know this subject is highly unusual for me in that there is an absence of a person.

I knew this painting would be an ambitious endeavor, but I also knew that painting it would bring me peace. It had the potential to lead me into a quiet mind, which is something I don’t find often enough.

Too often I get lost in a busy, chatty mind.

And this is where art is my savior. I’d like to say I cruise into a quiet mind simply by painting, but first I have to get past all the noise of swirling thoughts that insist on knowing the outcome of a painting before I’ve even started. Whoa! What a lesson for my life on a grander scale. How many times have I been frozen into inaction because I’m waiting to feel good, to feel peaceful and to know that success is certain? I’ve realized inaction can plague me if I stand in creative constipation by a busy mind.

If I wait for a quiet mind, I can be waiting forever.

I know this only too well. I also know that I have to step into the noise and the discomfort and start anyway. I have to trust that the quiet mind will come when I take the leap of faith and start. I also have learned that I can’t think myself into a peaceful state. In fact, that’s a sure recipe for a mind that shifts into high gear. Our left brains love a good fight.

And so I leave you with my latest work of art, and a glimpse into my artistic process and the challenges of a busy mind that wants to run the entire show. Thank goodness my art-teacher mother taught me to lean into art for self-expression and for personal exploration and revelation.

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” – Albert Einstein