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Emotions and Art

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Great art evokes an emotional response. Some have said that this is art’s purpose. Others have stated an elevation of man’s essential being is art’s fundamental purpose.

Bob Dylan said it best when he said “The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?”

This idea brings the relevance of art in our world to a much greater level than the simple evocation of emotion. Many things, besides art, can evoke emotion. An argument at the dinner table, a positive pregnancy test, or even a deep breath and a cup of tea. There is nothing inherently artistic in these actions, beyond the fact that they require some kind of intentionality and creation to make them happen.

Many would argue that the creation of art goes beyond simple emotion but brings about an elevation of consciousness. The process of creating great art and the viewing or enjoyment of that art builds a deep connection between the artist and those enjoying their work. This connection can inspire one to greater heights, bring new ideas to the fore, provide peace for a troubled psyche, or even alleviate physical pain.

A viewer of an original oil painting by Erin Hanson stated, “I first saw your work hanging on the wall at Kaiser hospital in Anaheim California. A very large wall painting blew me away, and I forgot all about being sick.”

Erin Hanson clouds painting

What is emotion?

The purpose of this article is twofold. We want to discuss how art affects emotion and talk about what else art does for the observer.

To begin, let us dive into the meaning of emotion.

There is the dictionary definition, which is expressed well by Merriam-Webster: “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”

This means that there is an entire gamut of emotions that can range from apathy to great enthusiasm, from joy to sorrow, from hatred to fear. These emotions have physical reactions like the clenching of fists or a spreading smile. They may push one down into the depths or uplift one spiritually.

However, emotion is often a manifestation of something more deeply felt. Emotions may show the physical aspects of some deep hurt in the past, or they can be how one shows a joyful moment. Often, emotions are associated with a moment, an object, a person, or a place.

Emotions work within the body and mind to tell us what is safe and what is not. Art often inspires these feelings within us, connecting past moments and new memories, or providing us with a look into the artist's vision.

Erin Hanson sunset painting

How can art uplift you emotionally, spiritually, and mentally?

Art often goes beyond creating emotions. Many aficionados find a deep connection with an artist or a work that affects them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

This is the phenomenon that Tom Wolfe called “It” in his book The Painted Word. He goes on to describe “It” as “the visual reward...which must be there, which everyone...knew to be there… something to radiate directly from the paintings on these invariably pure white walls, in this room, in this moment, into my own optic chiasma.”

He goes on to describe how waiting to feel or see something from art is backward. That one must believe in the work to truly see it and become inspired and stirred by it.

This is, of course, one man’s method of enjoying art. Art theory is a vast and deep body of knowledge that seeks, in essence, to understand why art makes us feel.

Great art often inspires a transcendent experience to those enjoying the work. Art that makes you come back again and again, finding new details, feeling new feelings, this is the art that has a deep impact.

Perhaps this is because great art is always created with an intention.

In the case of Erin Hanson’s work, the intention behind the art is expressed in these words from the artist, “I'd like anyone viewing my art to be pulled into my world and see the beauty that I see.”

This is a tall order, but is one that has been accomplished by all masters of their craft.

The question to ask yourself when viewing art is not simply “how does it make me feel, emotionally?” but “how does the work make me feel physically, mentally, and spiritually?”

Art that makes you feel “it” is art that is worthwhile for you - no matter who created the work or what form that work has taken.

Erin Hanson painting Radiant Sky

How to find art that uplifts you

Finding art that uplifts you can be difficult. In these days of screens and social media, we are often inundated with works from friends, museums, and artists worldwide. This is both a blessing and a curse in that you may not get the full experience by viewing work on a computer screen or on your phone.

So, while social media and websites are valid and wonderful places to find art, we will provide a short list with these spots and more that we hope you will explore.

Great places to find art that uplifts you are:

● Social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook

● Artist websites

● Art museums

● Corporate art collections

● Art shows

● Galleries

● Art walks

● Art celebrations

● Pop up shows at hotels, wineries, and other businesses

● Farmer’s Markets or street markets

● Art auctions

● Through a dealer

● Through a friend

● Art books

● Art calendars

● Art studies and classes

This world is filled with incredible art with which you can forge a deep connection. We hope you will explore the above options anytime you feel you are bereft of art.

You can start your exploration right now! Just click here to explore Erin Hanson’s portfolio and enjoy her unique style of Open Impressionism.


Erin Hanson ArtistERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.

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