A Blessing and a Curse

“Oh please be careful with me, I’m sensitive

And I’d like to stay that way.”

– Jewel from “I’m Sensitive”

White Roses from the House Garden by Joaquin Sorolla, 1919.
White Roses from the House Garden by Joaquin Sorolla, 1919.

The very same traits that give many artists and other creative folk their vivid imaginations and rich inner lives can also cause almost debilitating struggles. Sensitivity has been studied more intensely over the last couple of decades with research revealing that fifteen to twenty percent of the population can be classified as highly sensitive. Researchers assert that this is not a learned response, but a condition seen from birth, equally distributed between the sexes. They also stress that high sensitivity is not a disorder and in many cultures is greatly respected.

Certainly not all artists are highly sensitive people, but those of us who are can be consoled by the new research. The common admonition, “You’re being too sensitive!” can be received as a compliment, for the definition of a highly sensitive person includes someone with a greater depth of processing, strong empathy as well as acute sensitivity to stimuli such as smells, sounds and light.

While highly sensitive people may struggle with public speaking and performing while under scrutiny, they tend to excel in creativity and fine art, and compassion, be detail-oriented and  have an unusual ability to persevere (an asset when trying repeatedly to master oil painting techniques or see a painting through to the end we desire). We might assume that highly sensitive persons would tend to avoid too much stimulation and might even shy away from other people for that reason. Some do. However, research shows that thirty percent are extroverts. This fits with our experiences with many other artists who are friendly, out-going and enjoy painting gatherings and events. As in all things, balance is the healthiest path. Working in solitude in the studio is necessary, but so is connecting with friends and the energies and distractions of the larger world. We are acutely aware of getting “studio-crazed” through too much work-related isolation, especially in periods of bad weather. We try to remember to break up our work as  throughout the week, to go into town and to see and interact with other people. This seems to “reset” our inner compasses so that we can return to our work revitalized and with fresh focus.

An authority in the field is Dr. Elaine N. Aron, a psychologist and author of The Highly Sensitive Person.

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–John and Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.