ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. Below is an article from Issue 4, “Character.”

Staff Writer: Katrina Williams

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” -Vincent van Gogh

It wasn’t until van Gogh was 27 years old that he decided to become an artist. His art wasn’t recognized by the public until after his death and he only sold one painting in his entire life — to his brother.

Today, his art is hung and admired around the world. Thousands of people find inspiration from a one-eared painter who saw the power of his creations before anybody else could. Art has the ability to reflect a person’s hopes, regrets and the overall state of their character in ways that could not otherwise be expressed.

Painter and sculptor Lawrence Noble has spent the last 40 years exploring his own artistic expression. He’s worked for Disney franchises George Lucas, Peter Jackson, ABC-7 and several other companies both small and large.

As Noble puts it, many people do not consider themselves artists and are unwilling to engage in artistic expression. These people are wrong; everyone is an artist in their own way. Those who do not grab ahold of their artistic talent are paralyzed by fear, and art is the cure.

“Fear is at the root of anxiety,” Noble said, “Why can you listen to a beautiful piece of music or watch a symphony and appreciate it, but then you look in the mirror and you won’t give yourself the same assessment?”

Photo by Руслан Гамзалиев on Unsplash

Dominique Nevarez, a senior studio art major at Azusa Pacific, has discovered the power of self-expression through her surrealism, spray paint, airbrush and acrylic art. She believes that anyone can enhance an understanding of themselves through their own imagination.

“I feel like a lot of people seem to be close-minded saying things like, ‘I am just an artist, or [I] am just a writer,’” Nevarez said, “It’s important to be open minded and try new things. Accept that it may not turn out the way you wanted it to turn out … and you never know where that will take you.”

Ultimately, negative self-worth can stunt people from exploring their own artistic abilities. This not only puts an individual and a community at a loss, but as it turns out, it can also be unhealthy.

Researchers Girija Kaimal, Kendra Ray and Juan Muniz published a study in The Journal of American Art Association titled, “Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.” By measuring hormone levels in the brain, they concluded that stress levels in the brain significantly decrease after 45 minutes of artistic activity, regardless of whether or not the artist believes in their talent or not.

The conclusion was that the measure of artistic ability has much more to do with perspective and self-expression than it does any particular skill.

Additionally, engaging in some form of artistic expression promotes clearer thinking and an overall healthier character.

Lisa Clements is the Assistant Director of Education, Public Programs and Interpretive Media for The Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

In an interview with ZU Magazine, Clements said, “any kind of art, any kind of expression … it all connects us to the same beautiful human impulse.”

Clements described art as a unique gift that connects one person’s character to the character of others. Artists who forge this connection embrace their flaws and their humanity. Paintings are not famous simply because they are beautiful, but because they reflect the emotions of the painter; these paintings can relate to people who have experienced similar feelings and even similar hardships.

“It’s a human reaching out to another human,” Clements said. “Art is a beautiful way to explore self and community. That experience of connecting to some quality of being human … it allows us to wonder about things that make our lives richer.”

When Vincent van Gogh saw Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride for the first time, he stood in front of the painting for hours. He is recorded to have said, “‘I should be happy to give ten years of my life … if I could go on sitting here in front of this picture for a fortnight, with only a crust of dry bread for food.’”

Even van Gogh, Clements stated, was influenced by the power of art to connect him to other people.

“I don’t think he felt that way because he was an artist … I think he was an artist because he felt that way,” Clements said.

Van Gogh stood in front of that painting because he related to something Rembrandt was portraying through his character. Today, people stand in front of van Gogh’s paintings because they are also stirred by how his art resonates with greater humanity.