Finding Life Lessons in Art


by Jerome Lawrence

An efficient route to happiness and success would involve a continual investigation into concepts and principles governing human tendencies and those of our surroundings, revealing to us patterns from which predictions can be made. More accurate predictions facilitate better choices; when we make better choices we increase our chances of successful outcomes. Correlations can be seen in routes to success in both life and art. I have found that the best examples are revealed through discovery oriented practices where problems are invented to test our skills and broaden our minds and solutions tailored to meet our needs at times of exploration and growth. With a good teacher, each problem is designed to solicit thoughtful solutions that tend to be flexible, creative and encouraging of a belief in limitless possibilities. As opposed to, for example, art lessons that calls for the dutiful practice of directly copying a physical object where the problem’s design is limited to the improvement of one’s technique and solutions are confined to more and more practice at duplicating the object. During teen years into adulthood the beginning student usually focuses on the accurate reproduction of each detail of a model or scene. How different was their focus years earlier as children when a drawing or painting captured their impression of an object or expressed what they thought about the object or scene.

I’ll admit as a learning tool accurate reproduction is needed because it is easier to copy your emotions and ideas to canvas if you’ve had prior practice portraying the look and feel of a physical object with artists’ materials. The act of copying sharpens the artist’s skill at manipulating materials to bring about a certain effect. This develops awareness of what might be possible with the use of paint on canvas, helping the artist to lay out pathways leading to good, better and best chances of achieving his objective; a plausible progression would be to impart the painting or subject with character and expressiveness through lessons learned from dutiful and varying manipulation of artists’ materials. A simple example of this might be to use lighter, warmer colors in thin layers to express joy and darker, cooler colors with thick, impasto like texture to create a more depressive tone to the work as a whole or an object or figure within the work. You may already see that a broader perspective is needed to capture not only the look, but the feel, expressiveness, emotional and intellectual properties of a model or scene. A broader, more encompassing perspective would not only take into account patterns inherent to an object’s appearance but also patterns of human perception as subjectively altered by a person’s beliefs, memories, thoughts, fears and possibly suggestions intuitively discerned from the presence of others either with us in actual space or within our minds. Perception may better be understood as the psychological baggage acting as a filter in our line of sight between an object and our understanding of it. The images behind our eyes, painted with biased brushes, speak much more eloquently to a subject’s rendition than the narrow, painstaking and often frustrating act of copying minute details with camera like precision, serving in many cases to cancel expressive options and opinions about a subject to mechanically report visual “facts”.

excerpted from How to Get What You Want by Changing Your Mind – Finding Life Lessons in Art ©2006 by Jerome Lawrence. Used with permission of the artist.

On View: Heaven’s Gate by Jerome Lawrence. 20×24, acrylic on canvas. BFA, Georgia State University. Jerome Lawrence’s solo exhibitions in Georgia include galleries such as Sabra Gallery, Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech, Chances Gallery, City Gallery East, VSA Arts for All Gallery, and others. His artwork is part of the documentary Shadow Voices & Building on Faith by Mennonite Media, and he has been interviewed by CNN news, WXIA-TV and WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jerome Lawrence’s work was featured in Visual Preludes 2006, an exhibition of Episcopal Church & Visual Arts for the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, Columbus, Ohio, 2006.

Jerome Lawrence’s onset of schizophrenia was surfaced in 1982 just before he was to receive his Bachelor of Visual Arts degree from Georgia State University. Through pain and perseverance, Jerome earned his BVA in 1984. A practicing painter, writer, speaker (website: and in recovery from illness, he shares secrets learned from ‘Recovery through the Arts’.

Past Posts