The Art of Joy

There is a JOY that comes from painting something. Anything. For me, just making marks of color on a surface is something of the ecstatic. Perhaps it derives from memories of doing this so many times in other lives before this one. Perhaps it is from my family’s tendency to tinker and make stuff. Whatever it is, there is an Art of Joy when I take up the brush or a drawing stick, and just make marks.

The banner of this post is a small painting by Paul Klee. He taught and painted in the times leading up to WW II at the Bauhaus, which was a progressive college of Art and Design in Germany. He was known for his theories on color. He worked in the realms of painting also explored by his friend, fellow teacher, and early Modernist, Wassily Kandinsky. This painting is not much more than a structure of interlocking squares in a free form grid, but the color relationships are captivating. One gets in a state of Joy just looking at the colors, so warm and inviting, so gentle and harmonious in their relationships.


What is the Joy of Color in this Art of Joy?

Yellow, Green, Orange, with Burnt Sienna background. A tinge of day-glow Pink. Can we derive Joy just looking at colors? Some of us can.


I did a series of “Wings” a few years ago. These are watercolors with colored drawing pencils on paper. I recall the Pure Joy I had painting these. They have what I would call a “color life.” I felt very alive while painting them, and as a result, they transmit that. Here is another one in that series:


Color is reflected and held together in a structure of some sort. That structure could be totally boundless or could be well defined in its drawing. It is impossible to escape drawing in a painting. It is the skeletal veracity of a work. There is a relationship between drawing and calligraphy. Every person’s handwriting is unique, just like the kind of marks they make in a drawing are unique to them. I try to open up the range of marks in a work, but I suppose I have certain strokes that are unique and repetitive to me.

Color Ecstasy

Here is another Klee, as he lives in the interplay of color broken into jewel-like facets of interlocking hues and intensities. He gives us a color ecstasy, I would say. And in his total immersion in this chromatic delight, he brings us into another dimension of Joy. What musicians had done with pure sound became the painter’s possibility with pure color, in Klee’s work.


The Sensuality of Form

Just to explore painting is a sensual experience akin to the most orgasmic pinnacles of delight. Why would a person spend hours and hours hovered over the surface of a painting if not for some significant satisfaction? There is a sensuality of form that comes along with the plastic arts. I would even say that the verbal arts, when really attuned to the palpable relationship between the word and its quality or object, would involve the same sensuality. To the poet, the word takes on the “thing.” To the painter, the stroke of color is not only the building block of reference but also the “thing” in itself. Klee’s painting retains this sensuality of form, even when we are not so sure what reference he is making. Who cares? The “thing” is a sensual transmission of beauty in the color that transports us to Pure Joy. What else do we need to see or feel? That is totally up to us. There is a “nature” of the sublime that keeps a Color Life flowing into us from his works.

MARKUS RAY: Convergence

I did a series of paintings I called Convergence, for obvious reasons of coital bliss. Recent studies put the average times per day a man thinks about sex around eighteen. That could be. But when I am painting that number might be increased, as the act of painting itself is a kind of coital bliss.

There is the sensual form of the final work, but there is also a sensual form of the action of painting itself. This may even be intensified by the larger scale of monumental paintings. Here is Jackson Pollock painting in his Long Island studio. He is in a kind of sexual play of continual ejaculation.


There is a sexual intensity of the man, the movement, the dripping, splattering action of his painting style, and the ground of the canvas placed like a horizontal forest floor receiving the downpour of new life. All this is built up in the melding of layers of paint in an accumulation of Pure Joy. What could be better?


Many people would say, “What is so special about this accumulation of drips and drabs?” I would challenge anyone to make such a thing, and even to retain the clarity of color, line, drawing, purity, virtuosity, and balance. Most of us would end up with mud if we tried to do what Jackson Pollock did. He did it with the hand of a master painter.

The Color of Joy

Does Joy even have a color? Is it not infused in all colors? This may be so, yet as a painting, color is placed in relationships that dramatize their qualities and interactions. As a painter I know certain colors bring out the best in other colors; certain colors act harmoniously together when others make for discordant bonds. The Joy of Color is revealed how you feel in the presence of it. And painting gives us the opportunity to see and feel this Color of Joy.


This is a meticulously painted field of color by Julian Stanczak, my painting professor from the Cleveland Institute of Art. The progression of color leading to the brilliant burst of bright orange concentrated in the middle is a masterful rendering of the Joy of Color. It may seem like a paint store color swatch, just like the Jackson Pollock painting may seem like a smattering of a painted “mess” from a two-year-old, but upon closer examination, a person can see the skill and discipline required to paint such visual bursts of the Art of Joy.

The Color of Joy is the intensity of experience brought about when the visual elements in a painting come together to make us feel good, particularly when we step back, take it all in, then “let go.” The painter has spent hours, perhaps days, putting together a painted motherboard of matter that sings to us of its harmonious chroma and hue. What could touch us better than this? Painters use color as a musician uses chords of sound. And whether the painting moves us to greater Joy is the final test of its color life.

Beauty Is What You Feel

There is a lot about a painting that invokes feeling. Yet I am interested in the aesthetics of Joy. Even the simple verticle orange stroke of Barnett Newman on this field of rust-red gives me a chill of painted Joy. I am engulfed by it. Like a lone ranger of an existential proposition, the vertical orange stroke defines an action of Being. “Here I am,” it says. I stand in the Joy of Orange, in the ecstasy of my own Identity. Nothing more needs to be said. The painting is larger than life. The vertical stroke is taller than a man.


The Art of Joy is ultimately the Joy of the painter coming through the work. No painting I ever made was left in the quagmire of a meaningless struggle. Even if there was a struggle of sorts in the process of painting it, the final point of departure would rise from the ashes of the process into the Joy of a new life. Here is a painting I did on canvas, two meters wide, called simply “Grail.”


We drink from the Holy Grail of Divine Nectar, we who pick up a brush and dip it in the paint pots of pure spectral delight. The Art of Joy has intertwined with an application of color so already close to happiness that the consolidation of this action stops nothing short of Heaven’s Gate. I am fortunate to have this destiny in my cards. The Art of Joy has its perennial mode of expression in my Love for color, light, and paint.



PS. If you want to commission or purchase one of my paintings, write to me here: We can experience the Art of Joy together.

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