Janet Meinke-Lau
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Art and Surf Blog

Conversations around the process of creating and being an artist and surfer.

The Gift

I talk about the theme of gifts often - in this blog entry about gifts and in this blog entry about the ability to receive the gifts. So it’s only apropos that I am reading a book titled, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde. The book captures some really good theories on gifts, and I want to touch upon a couple of them.

First, some traits of a gift:

  • A gift is a “thing we do not get by our own efforts… it is bestowed upon us.”

  • Gifts do not earn profit… instead they give increase. There is a motion, a flow. In gift exchange, the increase stays in motion and follows the object, while in commodity exchange, it stays behind as profit.

  • A gift must be passed on, to ensure the livelihood of its spirit. A gift is not really “received” until the recipient is ready to pass it on.

There are two kinds of gifts I’d like to elaborate on.

  1. The artist’s gift - it comes to her from seemingly nowhere. “Although talent can be perfected through an effort of the will, no effort in the world can cause its initial appearance.” In Chinese, talent is 天赋. 天= Heaven; 赋=endowment; so literally a gift from Heaven, from the gods. This talent, in order for it to be passed on, must be developed. “Once a gift has stirred within us it is up to us to develop it… A gift isn’t fully realized until it is given away… For the fruitfulness of a gift is the only gratitude for the gift.” One acknowledges gratitude for this gift by laboring in its service, to be able to provide Gift No. 2.

  2. “That art that matters to us - which moves the heart, or revives the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living, however we choose to describe the experience - that work is received by us as a gift is received… when we are touched by a work of art something comes to us which has nothing to do with the price… When we are moved by art we are grateful that the artist lived, grateful that he labored in the service of his gifts.”

    The pull to a specific artwork is something that can’t be forced. A style or a specific piece that resonates with our spirit. The ability to receive the first gift is a gift in itself. And this gift can be transformative. For instance, many artists are transformed to become artists because they are able to receive another artist’s gifts.

So, I am so incredibly grateful to people who have been supporting my artistic endeavors by commissioning artwork from me, by following my instagram account and giving me encouragement, by signing up for this newsletter, etc. The fact that a person (or several people, lucky me!) would be willing to pay with his/her hard-earned money, for something I created is really humbling. The commission opportunities are a gift to me, and I hope they are also a gift to you. Art is for joy, enjoyment, to evoke good feelings and memories, etc. I hope I can continue to create art that brings joy, and maybe one day, I can create art that is transformative.

Some of my recent commissions:


The Island of Mokoliʻi (Chinaman’s Hat), 11x14”

The Crescent of Sakura, 8x8”

Japan in my Heart, 18x18”

All artworks were sketched with ink (pen) and painted with watercolor (artist grade pan paints and tubes) on Arches 140 lb (300 gsm) cold press paper.


Janet Meinke-Lau