HOW TO TRULY EXPERIENCE JOY THROUGH ART
Updated: Jun 20
Some of life’s greatest moments are when we are experiencing a truly deep emotional connection with a place, a person or an object.
Feeling intense joy or pleasure come close to describing that experience, but so does excitement, awe, happiness, elation, adventure, and euphoria. I want to help you discover true joy from experiencing art.
Art, by function and purpose, is created to create joy, and good art does even more. Great art can create feelings that go past feel-good emotions….and can tap deeply into the feelings of amazement and personal transcendence…even Nirvana.
Joy is not in things; it is in us. -Richard Wagner
Great art can be a catalyst to those special ‘moments’ that connect us deeply to our soul, that all senses combine together to create thoughts of awe-filled wonderment. Awe is defined as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. When we experience awe, we feel a sense of transcendence and connection to something greater than ourselves. This can lead to positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude, and compassion.
I was giddy like a child, when I learned to feel joy. – Peter Ashworth
We all desire to experience this through creative things, but because of life’s often intense distractions and multi-tasking, we struggle to get our brain into a state where it can enter pure joy-filled moments, and sometimes miss the most important elements of life, some of which will be remembered for many, many years. I did some deep research and have put together below, the path to experiencing significant joy through art.
A painting is not a picture of an experience, but is the experience.” Mark Rothko, painter
Art is more than just a visual experience; it can evoke emotions, spark conversations, and challenge our perceptions of the world. However, to truly experience art, it's essential to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to engage with it on a deeper level.
The first step in experiencing art is to be present in the moment. This means taking the time to shut out life’s distractions, and observe the artwork without any competing thoughts, to allow yourself to be fully present and immersed in the experience. Take a moment to slow down, breathe, and clear your mind of any thoughts, worries or other tasks,…and just drink in the art….just you and it.
Joy in looking and comprehending, is nature’s most beautiful gift. -Albert Einstein
Look beyond the surface
Art is more than just what meets the eye. To truly experience art, it's important to look beyond the surface and delve deeper into the artwork's meaning and message. Consider the artist's intentions, the historical and cultural context in which the artwork was created, and the emotions and ideas it evokes in you. Think about the purpose, and consider the art in the context of your personal worldview, life experiences and cultural perspectives. Connect deeply and cerebrally with the art.
An artwork is a living organism that forms a perception in your mind, in conjunction with a relationship between you the viewer, and the artists creative thinking and techniques. And now here it is...hanging on this wall solely for your pleasure.
If you mentally break down a piece of art into its multiple components and elements, you will begin to comprehend how each of its parts functions and how those parts work together in harmony to create art, just as if you were putting together a jigsaw puzzle. This way you can see not just what an artwork looks like, but how it’s created, what its various elements, colors, forms and techniques do, how they interrelate together, and how they contribute to the feelings and connectivity of the artwork as a whole.
Engage your senses
Art is a multisensory experience, so engage all of your senses to fully experience it. For example, if you're looking at a painting, observe the brushstrokes and colors, but also pay attention to the texture and smell of the paint. Look at how the colors blend or complement each other, and how the design in its many parts, works together as a symphony to deliver joy. If you're listening to music, pay attention to the melody and lyrics, but also feel the vibrations of the sound.
Allow yourself to feel
Art has the power to evoke a range of emotions, from joy and wonder to sadness and contemplation. To truly experience art, it's important to allow yourself to feel whatever emotions the artwork evokes. Don't suppress or ignore your emotions; instead, embrace them and use them to deepen your understanding of the artwork. If you are not feeling any emotion, you are either mentally distracted, are not fully invested in discovering the art, or have learned not to allow yourself to feel joy. As children we are typically able to connect with joy easily, but often as we grow, we shut joy out. To get past this, try looking at the art through your eyes as a child. Forget all the perceptions you have as an adult, just become a child for a few seconds, and allow yourself to ‘feel’ the other-worldly wonderment of the art.
Find the joy in everything you choose to do. -Chuck Palahniuk
Asking questions is a crucial part of experiencing art. Don't be afraid to ask yourself and others questions about the artwork, such as "What emotions does this artwork evoke?" or "What is the artist trying to communicate?". These questions can help you think deeper and mentally engage with the artwork on a deeper level, to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning and message.
Reflect on your experience
After experiencing art, take some time to reflect on your experience. This may involve journaling about your thoughts and emotions, discussing the artwork with others, or simply sitting quietly and thinking about your experience. By reflecting on your experience, you can gain insights into your own emotions and perceptions and deepen your understanding of the artwork.
Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. -Marianne Williamson
Be open to new experiences
To truly experience art, it's important to be open to new experiences and to step outside of your comfort zone. This may involve discovering and following artists you like by researching art online through Google image searches or art websites, (mine is peterashworth.com) exploring different genres and styles of art, attending art events and exhibitions, or engaging with art in different ways, such as through performance or interactive installations. Just start by asking people what they think of a specific piece of art to get the conversation going. Remember, art is a highly personal experience, and even if some people don’t like a piece of art that you do….that is their opinion, it does not have to be yours. By embracing new experiences, you can expand your horizons and gain a deeper appreciation of the diversity and richness of art – and in the process perhaps discover a new part of yourself.
HOW TO ‘FEEL JOY’ WHEN LOOKING AT ART
One of the most beautiful emotions that art can evoke is joy. When we look at a piece of art and feel joy, we experience a sense of happiness, pleasure, and contentment.
Look for artwork and artists that resonate with you
The first step in feeling joy when looking at art is to find artwork that resonates with you. This may involve exploring different genres, styles, and artists until you find artwork that speaks to you. When you find a piece of art that resonates with you, you are more likely to feel a sense of joy and happiness when you look at it.
Focus on the positive elements of the artwork
To feel joy when looking at art, it's important to focus on the positive elements of the artwork. This may involve looking for bright colors, interesting textures, and beautiful shapes that evoke a sense of happiness and pleasure. By focusing on the positive elements of the artwork, you can shift your attention away from any negative emotions and feelings that may be distracting you.
Engage with the artwork on a personal level
Another way to feel joy when looking at art is to engage with the artwork on a personal level. This may involve connecting with your own experiences, memories, and emotions that are evoked by the artwork. For example, a painting of a beautiful landscape may remind you of a happy memory from your childhood, or a sculpture of a playful animal may evoke feelings of joy and delight.
Pay attention to the details
To feel joy when looking at art, it's important to pay attention to the details of the artwork. This may involve looking closely at the brushstrokes, textures, and colors of a painting or examining the intricate details of a sculpture. By paying attention to the details, you can gain a deeper appreciation of the artwork and experience a sense of joy and wonder.
Consider the artwork's context
Another way to feel joy when looking at art is to consider the artwork's context. This may involve learning more about the artist's background, the historical period in which the artwork was created, and the cultural influences that inspired the artwork. By understanding the context of the artwork, you can gain a deeper appreciation of its beauty and meaning, and experience a sense of joy and wonder.
In conclusion, to truly experience art, it's essential to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to engage with it on a deeper level. Being present, looking beyond the surface, engaging your senses, allowing yourself to feel, asking questions, reflecting on your experience, and being open to new experiences are all key ways to experience art in a meaningful and transformative way. By experiencing art in this way, you can gain insights into yourself and the world around you, and enhance your overall well-being.
THE NEUROSCIENCE OF FEELING JOY.
Joy is a complex and multifaceted emotion that involves various parts of our brain. While the exact neural mechanisms of joy are still not fully understood, researchers have identified several key regions of the brain that play a role in experiencing joy.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain located at the front of the head, just behind the forehead. It is responsible for a wide range of functions, including decision-making, planning, and emotional regulation. Studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in experiencing joy, particularly in response to positive social interactions.
The basal ganglia is a group of structures located deep in the brain that are involved in movement, motivation, and reward. This region of the brain is particularly important for experiencing pleasure and reward, including the pleasure that comes from engaging in activities such as eating, sex, and other enjoyable experiences.
The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure located deep within the brain that is involved in emotional processing, particularly the processing of fear and other negative emotions. However, recent research has also shown that the amygdala plays a role in experiencing joy, particularly in response to social and emotional cues.
The hippocampus is a seahorse-shaped structure located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain that is involved in memory formation and spatial navigation. Studies have shown that the hippocampus plays a role in the emotional aspects of memory, particularly in the recall of positive and rewarding experiences.
Ventral Tegmental Area
The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a group of neurons located in the midbrain that is involved in the reward and pleasure system of the brain. The VTA is particularly important for the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure, reward, and motivation.
The nucleus accumbens is a group of neurons located in the basal forebrain that is involved in the reward and pleasure system of the brain. It is often considered the “pleasure center” of the brain, and is particularly important for the experience of pleasure and reward.
The insula is a small region of the brain located deep within the cerebral cortex that is involved in a wide range of functions, including perception, emotion, and self-awareness. Studies have shown that the insula plays a role in the processing of emotional and social stimuli, particularly those related to joy and happiness.
In addition to these key regions of the brain, there are other factors that can influence the experience of joy, such as genetics, environmental factors, and personal experiences. For example, research has shown that certain genetic variations may be associated with increased sensitivity to reward and pleasure, while exposure to stress and trauma can have a negative impact on the brain’s ability to experience joy.
In conclusion, feeling joy when looking at art is a beautiful and personally enriching experience. By looking for and experiencing artwork that resonates with you, focusing on the positive elements of the artwork, allowing yourself to engage with the artwork on a personal level, creating positive memories and associations to you, paying attention to the details, shutting out competing thoughts and other stimuli, considering the artwork's context, sharing your joy with others, and taking time to reflect, you can experience a sense of happiness, pleasure, and contentment when you look at art. Whether you're a seasoned art enthusiast or a casual viewer, feeling joy when looking at art can deepen your appreciation of the artwork and enhance your overall well-being.
Peter Ashworth is a Southern California impact artist whose purpose is to inspire people to feel alive, take them on a journey of transformation, and help them live their best creative life.
He believes his art should engage, entertain and uplift his customers to express their creative nature, to spark their imagination, and their desire to live creatively. He has an attraction to iconic life moments, whimsy and pop culture, and has a keen eye for color, progressive design, and subject matter honed over 30 years as a branding and marketing expert. His art is created to be a centerpiece, an experience, to mentally engage the viewer. He works across six different subject areas, each with a unique purpose of creating life-moment reactions and mental engagement with his viewers in the habitats and environments where his art is located.
He is a working artist available for personally commissioned art.