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The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom

Author: Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE, OBLSB
Ave Maria Press
Publication date:
July 11, 2011

by Spirituality and Practice



Summarized in the phrase “pray and work,” The Rule of St. Benedict provides the inspiration for Christine Valters Paintner’s newest exploration of the mutually nourishing relationship between contemplative practices and creative expression. Artists of all stripes and stations in life–poets or painters, potters or photographers–will discover how traditions of Benedictine, Celtic, and desert spirituality can offer new sources of inspiration for their work.

Through this twelve-week course, themes like “Sacred Tools and Sacred Space,” “Creative Solitude and Community,” and “Nature as a Source of Revelation and Inspiration” are enriched by Paintner’s perceptive discussion and enhanced by insightful quotations from well-known artists and writers. Each week offers suggestions for grounding both the creative and the spiritual life through three basic practices: walking, lectio divina, and journaling.

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Praise for the Book

"The Artist’s Rule, by Christine Valters Paintner, is a work of deft matchmaking between two human archetypes: the monk and the artist. As a Benedictine oblate and spiritual director, Paintner has the gifts needed to distill the wisdom of an ancient monastic tradition into a twelve-week journey designed to invigorate the artistic soul. The Artist’s Rule is suffused with a contemplative spirit that challenges our culture’s ceaseless call for productivity and what Paintner calls an “array of inner voices that denounces our inherent goodness, demands an unattainable perfectionism, and lures us to fill our emptiness with compulsive behavior.” Instead of this madness, The Artist’s Rule invites us to conspire with the sacred rhythms of fruitfulness and fallowness in art-making, and in so doing, to embrace both the kataphatic (expressive) and apophatic (ineffable) traditions of knowing God. In accordance with the Rule of St. Benedict that “all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ,” artists must likewise show hospitality to all that is foreign, poor, meek, and potentially Christ-bearing within themselves. Together with her own personal reflections, Paintner harvests swaths of wisdom from a diverse cloud of witnesses—including the early desert fathers, Rumi, Henri Nouwen, Joan Chittister, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Kathleen Norris, and Pablo Neruda. Each chapter offers a set of exercises in lectio divina, meditation, writing, movement, and visual art designed to tap the creative spark and cultivate new habits of self-awareness. Gracefully written and ever-consoling, The Artist’s Rule demands engagement from its reader. It challenges artists of every variety to journey actively with their Rule, and to thereby plumb the riches of both a contemplative and generative discipline."
"Going through the explorations and exercises in The Artist's Rule is the closest thing you can do to attending Christine's workshops and retreats in person. Christine's soothing vocal rhythm in person is amazingly translated in this book. Not only the vocal, but the back and forth movements from the heart to the mind and back again is like being on a hammock on an exotic beach.
This feast of a book will satisfy any person longing to truly participate in creation in creative ways. Each weekly session is inviting, safe, and surprisingly doable due to Christine's compassionate arrangement of elements. Instructions, directions, and guidance gently flow and make one feels Christine's own creative journey.
Like condiments laid out on a dining table, quotes from poets and writers, mystics and saints and ordinary people are sprinkled throughout its pages. Then Christine uses those excerpts as pointers, or even supports, for the topic she is discussing. The power of this type of presentation lies in the way that she rocks you on both sides of the brain. She brings you down to earth one moment with a Wendell Berry or Celtic prayer, then swings you high to the heavens with a Rilke or the Desert Fathers.
I guarantee you that this is not your standard contemplative practice. Be ready to be rocked, to be pulled and to be pushed, and to fly. Her words and her exercises will take you to a place you've never been before, because you will be asked to do things you haven't done before. This book is like an angel who sweetly whispers to the ear of my heart create (draw, sketch, paint, move, cook, hum, write, be silent) to praise. This book helps me to embody the Benedictine motto 'That in everything, we glorify God.'"
"In a world that lives in the shallows, hungering for depth, meaning, and beauty, The Artist’s Rule entices us to plunge into the riches of a contemplative, creative life. With hospitality, wisdom, and grace, Christine returns us to ancient monastic practices that have preserved the soul of spirituality across the ages and can restore us in our own time. Silence, solitude, sacred reading, stillness: such treasures of the monastic path have the power to transform us and draw us far into the mysteries that lie at the heart of our lives. As she illuminates and navigates the connections between contemplation and the act of creation, Christine beckons us into a sacred threshold space. What we find in this space—this sanctuary—will sustain and deepen our creative call, for the life of the world."
"Graciously offered, wisely conceived, carefully crafted, The Artist's Rule leads the reader ever more deeply into practices that recover the awareness that contemplation and creativity spring from the same Source. This work, grounded in Benedictine spirituality, offers us ways to rediscover the sacred art of living and serving, following the Spirit's lead and awakening to the artist's palette of our daily lives."
"In The Artist's Rule, Christine Valters Paintner offers a helpful recipe for living a contemplative life. In a series of chapters intended for use over a twelve-week period, she presents gentle yet challenging invitations to deepen one's commitment to creativity and prayerful presence to the world, through a careful and wise selection of thoughts for reflection paired with practical activities to engage body as well as spirit."
"This book is for all artists and budding artists who long for an infusion of creative spirit. By melding monastic practices of embodied spirituality with fresh invitations for creating art, Paintner shows how to make creative life out of your whole life."
"It is a time of shift, of awakening, new challenges, greater complexity in every dimension of daily life. The Artist’s Rule is a treasure for those of us who long to live a rich inner life, to be fully human and creative members of a creative Universe, to give expression to what is moving within us--to write, paint, make music, and dance. Christine frames her exploration in monastic wisdom, but in our present context where the whole world is our monastery. The inner guide of each of us is thoroughly welcomed and nourished throughout the chapters—in explorations, guided imagery, mystical insight, poetry, music, reflections, inspiration, practices of creativity, ritual – as we travel today’s call to creativity and contemplation."
"Benedict established a School for God's Service, intending his monastery to be a place where seekers learn how to incarnate God's Awesome Presence in our midst and to embody the Good News to others. The Artist's Rule does just this, guiding readers into very human practices that help us cultivate deeper awareness of our relationship to the Divine. These spiritual practices will support our growth into our humanity. And they're just fun! I highly recommend Christine's work."
"I highly recommend The Artist's Rule as a way to explore and embrace our inner monk and inner artist so we can unleash greater creative living. Using the wisdom of Benedictine values, Christine Paintner seeks to nurture contemplative and expressive practices which flow from seeing all of life as a sacred creative gift we give each other. Inner contemplative practices yield and sustain a creative expressive life and enable us to see our world as holy."
"In The Artist's Rule, the familiar subjects of creativity and spirituality explode into a kaleidoscope of connections that invite the reader into the borderland where these topics converge. Grounded in scholarly knowledge, the book quotes Scriptures, theologians, mystics, psychologists, artists, poets, and others, yet it reads like a stimulating conversation with a soul friend."
Dr. Catherine Grytting
Counselor, Healer, Spiritual Director at HEART Healing Art Center
"At every turn, the beauty and depth of Paintner's writing and the references she includes makes reading a rich experience."