The job of an artist is to offer a sanctuary of beauty to an ugly world

– Jeff Goins

A few years ago, University of Chicago historian Tom Smith asked 27,000 Americans to evaluate their jobs. He found that, of nearly 200 occupations, painters scored fifth for overall job satisfaction.

Only ministers, physical therapists, firefighters and school principals scored higher. (Roofers scored the worst.)

Smith’s findings don’t surprise me.

For every suffering painter, I’ve discovered, there’s a legion of contented ones. Even the discontented painters feel satisfaction in their jobs.

“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting,” Van Gogh once told his brother.

As I’ve mentioned, I recently broke five bones in my left leg. The injury led me to fear for my ability to paint, because it forced me to learn to paint sitting down, something I’d never attempted.

My fear was unwarranted.

“I am not sick. I am broken,” Frida Kahlo once told Time. “But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.“

Sitting or not, painting makes painters feel alive because it immerses them in “flow.” Even when the results are mediocre—or worse—painting plucks the painter from clock-time and, MBM-like, transports her “into the moment.”

Viewing art, it turns out, can do the same, as researchers at Claremont Graduate University have shown.

“When the viewer is fully engaged, aesthetic experiences are comparable to flow experiences,” the researchers say. Viewing a painting frees the viewer from “concerns about past and future” and leads to “transcendence through a kind of flight.”

The world might seem ugly and broken right now, but—whether you’re a painter or a patron—we still have paintings to mend us.

Above: Ceci n’est pas une Coke. Oil on canvas board, 8 x 12 inches. Painted sitting down. Ships framed and ready to hang. Remember, things go better with Coke.