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The Only Way Out is Through Painting

R A Richards

United States

Painting, Acrylic on Canvas

Size: 30 W x 40 H x 1.5 D in

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About The Artwork

This painting draws me in past the red, blue, black, and green shapes, and into the yellow and orange beyond them. As I studied it, a line that I have heard many times came to me, “The only way out is through.” Thus the painting’s title. That line seems to be a modern rewording of a sentence from a 1914 poem by Robert Frost -- A Servant to Servants -- in which he writes of a woman relating her daily ordeals to a visitor who is camping near her home. “By good rights I ought not to have so much Put on me, but there seems no other way. Len says one steady pull more ought to do it. He says the best way out is always through. And I agree to that, or in so far As that I can see no way out but through— Leastways for me.” The painting does not suggest wading through daily ordeals; at least not to me. The sense of it is more playful, more joyful, like a color run in which runners are showered with colored powders as they make their way along a course and their only way out is through.

Details & Dimensions

Painting:Acrylic on Canvas

Original:One-of-a-kind Artwork

Size:30 W x 40 H x 1.5 D in

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For twenty years I sought to enter the state of “mushin” when I paint without fully understanding what I was seeking or having a name for it. Then I stumbled on the name and found resources that helped me understand it and enter it at will. Mushin is a Japanese term and Zen expression, also used in martial arts. It refers to the mental state, the mindset, I seek when painting. In that state I rely not on thought and judgment, but on my trained instinct or what I feel intuitively in a moment. In English, mushin means “no mind.” It is shorthand for the term “mushin no shin” which means “mind without mind.” In the state of mushin the mind is not empty, but is free of distractions such as planning, analysis, criticism, fear, or ego. Some masters of mushin believe it is the state of mind in which a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to respond to the moment. In a state of mushin, the mind is detached from any distraction, and so is open to intuition informed by training; the person is thus free to act spontaneously and instinctively. For about eighteen of those twenty years I worked with acrylics on canvas and caught glimpses of a mushin mindset. Today I am working with watercolors and inks, I have learned how to enter mushin, and am producing a series of paintings emanating from that state of mind. I began my work life as a silk screen artist while studying advertising design at the Philadelphia College of Art. My work detoured into a career in organization change before returning to my art. I am also author of three books which reflect my life-long fascination with the creative process. My paintings hang in homes and businesses across the United States.

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