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My good friend Manny is an artist and makes a living as an illustrator. A few days ago he sent me an e-mail with the words:

If you have lemons
and you don’t like lemonade
make a still life.

Wise words. Lord knows we all have more than our share of lemons at one time or another.

He also attached an image of a beautiful still life of lemons, which I unfortunately can’t share because it was made for a special client. So instead, here are some lemons NOT drawn by my friend just to get you in the mood. Actually, I think the lemons in this lovely photo come together quite nicely to make a sweet composition:


Photo by André Karwath from Wikimedia Commons (see note below)

What I love most about what my friend said is the idea behind his words. The power of art to transform a moment – and the power we have to create art. And we can create art out of anything – including and maybe even especially the sourness of life.

This certainly isn’t a new thought – many great artists have been inspired or even driven by the obstacles in their lives. And then there are many of us ordinary folk who, like me, sometimes write to give voice to the angst within us. Or to simply give life to whatever is floating around in our heads.

Creating art – whether drawing or painting or photography or writing or sculpting or knitting or woodwork or making music or dance or whatever… can all be therapy of sorts. A marvelous release of our thoughts and passions and feelings that otherwise might go unexpressed.

Or sometimes it’s just nothing more than a lovely thing – like Manny’s transcendent still life.

On that point, I found an interesting discussion of this on Sue Beyer: Artist: “This is related to a question I continue to ask myself… is it okay to make art that is merely decorative or does an artist need to have something intelligent to say?” Personally, I find the expression of what is within us – even if that is simply “I feel like adding something beautiful to the universe” – reason enough for art. Not that I don’t also enjoy art that is political or makes a strong statement of any kind.

But getting back to the lemons…the inspiration I glean from all this is no matter what’s going on in your life, rather than just sit day in and day out and and bemoan the agony of it all – create something! Put what you’re feeling into your art – whatever form that takes.

For me it’s mostly writing. But I also have a little secret fascination – playing with existing images and creating something different – just for my own amusement. I’ve never been good at drawing or painting, but still love images of all kinds. Sometimes I like to use software to just see what happens when we focus on different aspects of art. For instance, with the lemons above I played around until this little cropping popped up:


I edited nothing in the image itself – only zoomed in on a portion and cropped it. Yet look at the difference in intensity and feeling. Kind of like life. We can often change the way we feel by how and what we focus on.

In fact, I think the way we focus on life is an art form all on its own. We can zoom in on the littlest details or let ourselves pull back and see things from a distance – or from a different angle. It’s amazing how this change in perspective can shed decidedly new light on things and even change what we’re feeling.

So the next time life hands you lemons, why not give it a try? Play a bit with the focus and angle. Try to see things from a different point of view. And if it winds up inspiring a piece of art, all the better!


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November 24, 2007 by Ronnie Ann


Please note: The original lemon image by André Karwath comes from Wikimedia Commons with the following stipulation:

This file is licensed under the
Creative Commons
Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one: Official license