“Conviction means weaving yourself mentally into critical features of your creative efforts.” –The Taxonomy of Human Elements in Endeavor 

True art is inextricable from the artist. Even those famous ancient cave paintings peppered across the Iberian Peninsula, the creators of which we can never know, portray a powerful, simple image of the artists’ lives and endeavors. We see reenactments of the hunt, religious symbols and we’re allowed to experience, each of us in our own way, those ancient social situations. These unnamed artists showed us their world, as it was to them, in the best way they knew how.

In the modern era, artistic movements reflect not only the social context from which they emerged but the minds, mentalities, thoughts and feelings of the artist. What emerges is an extension of the world these artists’ inhabited, their psychosocial reality. But why do some works still intrigue us hundreds of years after their completion?

According to Benedetto Croce, Croce, whose work is the measuring stick for all aesthetic philosophy, the best art conveys conviction. These artists gave themselves fully to their work; they’ve sunk all of the available creative energy within themselves into their creation. So, this seemingly abstract thread that connects the fluid realism of ancient Greek sculpture with the geometric functionalism of Bauhaus architecture to the eerie distortions within Surrealist painting to the subjectivity of abstract and modern art isn’t technical skill, or originality, or an accurate representation of physical reality, or time or money spent—it’s the conviction of the artist who created it.

Every artist knows this in his or her own way. They realize how their work must reflect their inner self. They understand how they must do their best, cultivate their talents, work hard and courageously present their self—in a very real way—to the scrutiny and harsh gaze of the outside world. In short, they must be authentic.

Artists are a unique group whose quest is the bringing into existence something new. These concepts of authenticity and conviction do not apply only to artists. One of the most fundamental truths of being human is that, as such, we all create our own reality. Grappling with limits placed upon us by our societies and the physical world, we toil and struggle to bring about the fruition of our endeavors, pursue our purposes, express our values in thought and action and achieve. It’s hard. It’s really hard. Again and again, life throws up challenges and we muster the courage to rise to them. Our success or failure depends largely upon how authentic we are throughout, how willing we are to stay positive and the conviction with which we face our challenges.

The lives lived that we look to throughout history for study and inspiration, be they religious figures, political leaders, conquerors, artists or otherwise share the same traits the great works of art do. They were lives created with conviction.

This is not to say that the billions of human lives that have come and gone or that exist today are Salieri to these great historical figures’ Mozart—condemned to mediocrity. Think of those you know that have left a positive impression on your life: your father, a teacher, a mentor or friend. What qualities do these people possess? Most likely, at the root, these people approach their lives with courage, conviction and authenticity. Every day, most people live these things.

What about you?

You are a potential always in readiness. Your family, your job, your hobbies, friendships and even your society are your canvas. You and everyone else is a creative being imbued with all the necessary elements with which to create a masterpiece. All that is required is that you commit wholeheartedly to being yourself, your better self, your best self.

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