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The Painter’s Keys Letters Archive


The archive is a rich resource of art information and advice for artists and creative people looking for meaningful content. You can access every one of the Robert Genn Twice-Weekly letters since the year 2000 and Sara Genn letters since 2014, including shared responses from the worldwide creative art community. This is a timeless collection of material formed by the brotherhood and sisterhood of artists, where all flags fly.

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2000 Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

  • Resolutions
      December 29th, 2000
  • There are two ways to approach New Year's resolutions: You can announce to as many people who will listen just exactly what your New Year's resolutions are--or you can keep them quietly to yourself. Read On

  • On-line Galleries
      December 26th, 2000
  • Lets look specifically at on-line galleries; what works with them, what makes them tick, what mistakes they're making, what results you've had. Read On

  • Gift wishes
      December 22nd, 2000
  • At this time of year in many countries people are wondering what to give and what they would like to receive. I've conducted a little poll... there's repeated wishes for the more intangible gifts--the ones that are ever so hard to actually give... Read On

  • Special places
      December 19th, 2000
  • A new environment is a tonic for the eyes. We bring to it less than the regular baggage. This area is a triumph of ochre and umber. Even the villages have little color. Read On

  • A Mistress
      December 15th, 2000
  • In my merely honest moments I admit to a love-hate relationship with my fickle mistress. One minute she's smooth and full of joy and I'm having my way. The next she's cranky and obstinate, unwilling and unbending. Read On

  • On a Spanish Path
      December 12th, 2000
  • Thereís a hilly path through chestnut plantations and bosky woods for six kilometers between Galaroza and Fuenteheredos. I donít expect anyone to know where that is--nor does it matter. Read On

  • Creative Invention
      December 8th, 2000
  • Creative invention is the artist's way of making easier the jobs we must do. What's to be done about the artist who gives in and practices this kind of subterfuge? Read On

  • Charity Art Auctions
      December 5th, 2000
  • One of the joys of being an artist is to be able to give some of our best efforts back to the community that has supported and encouraged us. Read On

  • Artist's mind
      December 1st, 2000
  • The artistic mind, flowing properly, sees the world differently. Call it what you will--a Celestine moment, synchronicity, serendipity. Thereís a higher harmonic. Itís got to do with receptiveness and alertness. Read On

  • Shoot the Model
      November 28th, 2000
  • I often wonder what Michelangelo would have done with an instrument that froze his models in mid-action and left him to work them up at his leisure. Read On

  • Unskilled art
      November 24th, 2000
  • An unskilled artist operates with a unique set of values. Very often he marches to his own tune. He may be wild, primitive, abstract, visionary, idea-driven--he may even in his heart of hearts long to be skilled. Read On

  • Nude
      November 21st, 2000
  • Like an echo from some primitive rite, rendering nudity is a time-honored craft and one of the few acceptable forms of public nakedness. Read On

  • Reality check
      November 17th, 2000
  • What's to be done where someone holds a nine-to-five, or even manages a home and family? Here are a couple of suggestions: Read On

  • The Golden Stations
      November 14th, 2000
  • My friend and fellow artist Joe Blodgett devised a system he calls "The 14 Golden Stations." At the time he was concerned with procrastination and time wasting--conditions that attack some artists. Read On

  • The Competition
      November 10th, 2000
  • In the studios of our minds our masters become our rivals. Those who are our betters are the ones we set to defeat. Aiming low eases the game, but greater things happen when we are shooting toward our stars. Read On

  • Love affair
      November 7th, 2000
  • When I was a kid I thought learning to paint would be a piece of cake. Now that I'm getting better at it I find the job to be more complex than I originally thought. What happened in between was that I gained respect for the activity and fell in love with the work. Read On

  • Portrait
      November 3rd, 2000
  • "Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend," said John Singer Sargent. He may have been joking--his portraits combined a reasonable likeness with an elegance which often made sitters more aristocratic looking than they may have deserved. Read On

  • Spirit of the Heart
      October 31st, 2000
  • I'm floating over southern Alberta in a hot air balloon. It's autumn; the stubble fields are a random quilt leaning away in all directions. Read On

  • Efficiency
      October 27th, 2000
  • Every one of us can find areas where we can make our work more efficient. For most of us creators, our minds, sometimes goofy and often visionary, run circles around our hands. Read On

  • Where to start
      October 24th, 2000
  • Start with the foreground or dominant motifs. Compositions fail when the foreground is treated as an afterthought. The foreground is the master of eye control. Read On

  • Fidget
      October 20th, 2000
  • Cezanne, it seems to me, was an artist who was conscious of his shortcomings. While few would admit it, he worked within the safety and conservatism that his style permitted, and it was his style that won--a unique fidget carried from canvas to canvas and in a million modifications into the studios of the world. Read On

  • Aerial Perspective
      October 17th, 2000
  • Much has been made of the light in France and other places in Europe. "Pellucid" and "diffused" are words often used. When a strong and clear light is combined with a moist atmosphere the effect of aerial perspective is enhanced. Read On

  • Bounty
      October 13th, 2000
  • Spain is a country that gives lessons in the organization of form. I'm thinking of whitewashed villages with soft cubist motifs; light, shade, color surprise and varied textures of tile, masonry and stone. T Read On

  • Tradition
      October 10th, 2000
  • South of Arles on a small canal there's a famous bridge. Moved from its former site, it's almost as Vincent Van Gogh would have seen it in 1888. Today it's off a secondary road and fairly difficult to find. Read On

  • Impedimenta
      October 6th, 2000
  • Did you ever stop to realize how drawing holds up brushwork? When work is prepared with a drawing, simple or complex, there's the tendency to work around the lines and cave in to the drawing. Read On

  • Process
      October 3rd, 2000
  • Imagine, if you will, an artistsí encounter group. Imagine they are sharing, in one sentence each and with impunity, their current processes. Read On

  • Poverty
      September 29th, 2000
  • "A true artist must expect to be out of step with his times and live a life of public disdain and poverty." A commendable thought, I suppose, and almost a usable quotation, written by a respected name in the arts. It has, however, a flaw. It's wrong. Read On

  • Creativity Methods
      September 26th, 2000
  • There's a whole world out there for artists who think on their feet, move this to satisfy that, and let the painting tell them what it needs. It's riskier--there's going to be a loser or two--but it's a lot more fun. Read On

  • Quotations
      September 22nd, 2000
  • Good quotes on hand are like pegs on which to hang the dayósome of them clear little bells to ring the painting hours. Read On

  • Dealer Loyalty
      September 18th, 2000
  • The best dealers build circles of friendship among their clients. They keep their friends. A new dealer gives the advantage of introducing an artist's work to a new set of friends. Read On

  • Morphic fields
      September 15th, 2000
  • I think artists need to act as if they are unique vessels of originality. They need to stand on their own shoulders, take their own counsel, paddle their own canoe. Read On

  • Studio Companion
      September 12th, 2000
  • I know there is a possibility that I will be accused of certified lunacy, but I need to state the following: I think animals, particularly dogs and cats, are a type of angel that has been sent from heaven to make us better painters. Not only better painters but better people. Read On

  • Sleep Deprivation
      September 8th, 2000
  • Sleep deprivation eats into learning--just when alertness and concentration are needed most--to say nothing of harming the immune system and motor skills. Read On

  • Sorting Out
      September 5th, 2000
  • Every plein air effort gets the benefit of a variety of solutions with the juror's studio eye. Elements are mentally taken out and put in. Skies are repainted. Things are punched in, toned down, brightened up. Read On

  • Going Home
      September 1st, 2000
  • Our time on the river is now up but we have not yet come to the end of the river. We make the decision to store the boat in Norman Wells for the winter with the idea that we will return again next summer to continue. Read On

  • Purity
      August 29th, 2000
  • Iím in the easel-station of Alexander Mackenzie trying to get the most out of a simple palette. Read On

  • Holiday
      August 25th, 2000
  • Did you ever have a feeling that today was an "extra day," one that you could pretty well lay back in, and do what you felt like? "Holidays" is also a term used to describe those little areas in paintings where strokes are missed, or minor surprise accidents happen. This holiday is full of holidays. Read On

  • Fellow Travelers
      August 22nd, 2000
  • As I paint in the bow of the Alexander Mackenzie, slowly powered forward by Sara at the helm, I'm beginning to think that what I do back in the studio is too fussy and constipated. Read On

  • Drifting
      August 18th, 2000
  • I've found that the best mindset is to be open to nature and not always reaching for the camera and its convenient viewfinder. The idea is to incline the mind to a holistic spin. An opening and a receptiveness to design and pattern for it's own sake seems to free the painting hand. Read On

  • Stuck
      August 14th, 2000
  • We're stranded. I've underestimated the difficulties of this river. We are at 63 58 37n, 124 22 07w known only to the neutral eyes of six GPS satellites. Read On

  • Working Out
      August 11th, 2000
  • Most of us haven't had the conditions that Tiger Woods grew up with. If we are to demand excellence, we have to plan and do the work-outs for ourselves. Read On

  • Uniqueness
      August 8th, 2000
  • Something I've learned from the sending and receiving of letters is the defiant individuality and uniqueness of creative people. Read On

  • Pressures
      August 4th, 2000
  • I have always preferred to pay myself first-that is do the work that pleases me the most. There's nothing worse than having to produce what are essentially commissions to someone else's standards that infringes on our own pure vision. Read On

  • Contradiction
      August 1st, 2000
  • At my easel this morning I realized that the way I'm working right now contradicts the way I was doing it a couple of weeks ago. Read On

  • Life Lessons
      July 28th, 2000
  • Leonardo da Vinci claimed only that he wished to work miracles. Behind that lofty goal there were a few principles. They are as valuable today as they were in 1500. Read On

  • Books
      July 24th, 2000
  • At the dawn of computers they gave them acronyms like HAL and ENIAC. Here's an acronym you might consideróBOOK. It stands for Bound Orderly Organized Knowledge. They're handy--and the current state of their art is nothing short of miraculous. Read On

  • Multi-tasking
      July 21st, 2000
  • In my experience I've found that women are generally better at multi-tasking than men. Perhaps it has to do with a legacy of running homes and families, or maybe it's in women's nature. Read On

  • Discipline
      July 18th, 2000
  • Benjamin Franklin said; "Keep your shop and your shop will keep you." So it is with us artists-when we step into our studios we are open for the business of our imaginations. Read On

  • Invention
      July 14th, 2000
  • A creative device that keeps us off the streets is our innate tendency to invent. The mind wanders to the possibilities of what might happen when we try something different. Read On

  • Serious Artist
      July 11th, 2000
  • In the jargon of the critic or art historian "serious artist" is often equated with "important". I've always taken it to mean something else--someone who takes his or her work seriously. Read On

  • Plagiarism
      July 7th, 2000
  • Definitions: A forgery is a work with an intent to deceive. A copy is a reproduction of another work. A clone is an imitation of someone else's style. Read On

  • Keeping Track
      July 3rd, 2000
  • Some artists use a journal and place entries and comments in the order they do the work. Others use popular systems such as Microsoft Office which permit date, title, or other priority. Read On

  • Trends
      June 30th, 2000
  • When an artist has a reasonably large stable of dealers there's the capability of picking up the scuttlebutt of what's moving. Some creative people, serious artists and casual painters alike, stay actively tuned to these trends, hoping to cash in. Read On

  • Sabotage
      June 27th, 2000
  • I've always wondered if my bad work happens because I'm a lousy artist, or for some other reason. Is there something such as sabotage insidiously going on? Read On

  • Higher Education
      June 23rd, 2000
  • I'm frequently asked whether it's best to go back to school or back to work. Fact is, even if you attend what you think is the best art school in the world (like I did-Art Center) it doesn't make you into an artist. You're the one who has to do that. Read On

  • Artists' names
      June 20th, 2000
  • There are probably more artists who have produced work under other names than we might think. Iíve often noticed that itís our names that hold some of us up. Read On

  • Grounds for quality
      June 16th, 2000
  • The main idea, after sound mechanical and chemical practices are in place, is to experiment until the surface and tone are just right for you at the time. If the ground is happy, the painting is half painted. Read On

  • Soviet Lessons
      June 13th, 2000
  • Regardless of your political or philisophical position, there's a surprising amount that can be learned from Russian social realism of the twentieth century. Read On

  • Great Expectations
      June 9th, 2000
  • Last year I started reading about the explorations of Alexander Mackenzie of the North West Company. In 1789 this Scottish fur trader followed a great northern river to its mouth. After thirteen hundred miles on the river that now bears his name, he arrived at the Arctic Ocean. Read On

  • The Secondary Easel
      June 2nd, 2000
  • This is a display area in your workspace that is apart and different than the place you normally work--your primary easel. Here, unfinished works sit side by side, often honored with a frame. Read On

  • The Club
      May 30th, 2000
  • While painting and sketch clubs are popular in many places, they are mainly a North American institution. Read On

  • The Demo
      May 26th, 2000
  • I've never failed to learn something by attending somebody else's demo. At the same time the giving of demos is a learning process. Read On

  • Taking the Leap
      May 16th, 2000
  • Taking the Leap, The Insider's Guide to Exhibiting and Selling your Art, by Cay Lang. It's an ideal book for people who are just starting out, but it's also good for mature and mid-career artists who might feel they know it all. Read On

  • Play the Game
      May 12th, 2000
  • Think of your creativity as a game. Games generally have rules and restrictions, as well as an opponent. In art the rules and restrictions are the limitations of the medium and the dimensions of the work; the opponent is mediocrity. Read On

  • Competence
      May 9th, 2000
  • The feeling of competence is the first evidence of professionalism--that lovely space that comes when we can look at a job well done and can say that it fulfils or exceeds what was first envisioned. Read On

  • Blocked
      May 5th, 2000
  • Iíve heard lots of reasons for being creatively blocked. For most artists it's a subconscious excuse--often based on laziness, perceived incompetence, a favorite victim-game we like to play, or simply running out of desire. Read On

  • The Wired Artist
      May 2nd, 2000
  • From the number of letters I've received it seems there's a new and dangerous threat to a balanced studio life. It's the computer. Read On

  • A New York Story
      April 28th, 2000
  • All the newest galleries are in formerly meatpacking Chelsea. Two themes in paintings: One is highly complicated uncompositional cartoon collages with images from media and advertising slap-dash in generally strident colors. The otheris slick modernistic stripes executed like a graphic designer's machine shop. Read On

  • A New York Opening
      April 25th, 2000
  • The place is packed. The beefy waiters are dressed in gas-jockey uniforms and carry trays of melon and prociutto over the heads of the youthful crowd. Spandex. Leather. Suede. Read On

  • They said it was hopeless
      April 21st, 2000
  • My idea was that Robb would be not just a good mouth painter, but a good painter--period. For his part, he saw painting as the key to his independence and self respect. It was frustrating just watching him. He would take hours to do what you and I can do in minutes. Read On

  • Endowment
      April 18th, 2000
  • One thing we learn about life is that we can't always get what we want. Some people have come to realize that while it may be preferable to live forever--just because they desire it doesn't mean it's going to happen. Read On

  • Make a Home
      April 4th, 2000
  • Take a look around your own home and family and see what might be needed. Find a wall or a space that can be filled with something you yourself would rather like to see. Read On

  • A Love Affair
      March 31st, 2000
  • By his own admission he was among the least of the Impressionists. While driven for most of his life by the need to put bread on the table for his family, he nevertheless placed the gentle smile of civility and pride in his paintings. He let the light, the sky, the sweet Frenchness be his principal actors. Read On

  • The Art Web
      March 28th, 2000
  • How well does art sell on-line? Some artists allow established brick-and-mortar dealers to include their work on the dealer's sites. Some artists manage websites as an aid to their stable of brick-and-mortar dealers. A few anchor their artist-owned gallery chains via the internet. Read On

  • Trail's End
      March 24th, 2000
  • I feel like I might die on this trail. It's cold and wet and my bones ache. Some of the paintings are constipated. Read On

  • On the Trail
      March 21st, 2000
  • As I said, it's all very personal--we all have our way with what we see and what we feel. I look for pattern, complexity, and the potential for mystery. Read On

  • On the Move
      March 17th, 2000
  • In 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson walked 120 miles in central France with a donkey by the name of Modestine. He sketched, took photographs and wrote "Travels With A Donkey in the Cevennes." My friend Robin and I are hiking it again. Read On

  • Keep It Quiet
      March 14th, 2000
  • The next time you have an idea or a plan that fires your enthusiasm, don't tell or show it to anyone until you have gone a long way toward making it happen. Read On

  • The Great Contest
      March 7th, 2000
  • We are all out there for judgement when we hang our work on a gallery wall, in a virtual gallery, or in the gallery of life. In favor of juried exhibitions and contests it can be said that more people see the work in a favorable light, especially the winner's work. Read On

  • An Exercise
      March 3rd, 2000
  • Make a painting that looks like it was done in five minutes, but take at least two hours to do it. Go seriously to work at making the thing and the job look casual and easy. Read On

  • A Waking Angel
      February 29th, 2000
  • The "artist's statement" is a relatively recent convention. Many are filled with obscure illusions and pretentious prose. But I never cease to be amazed at the quality, the honesty and beauty of some. Read On

  • The Journey
      February 25th, 2000
  • Sometimes it difficult to get down to basics. Holding onto the tools of our trade--brushes, chisels, colored pencils, whatever, goes a long way toward propelling ourselves along the path. Read On

  • Above and Beyond
      February 22nd, 2000
  • In high school I was always the last to be chosen for the team... When it came time to choose someone to do a painting or a mural, or to design and produce the school annual, that was a different story. Read On

  • Primed for Respect
      February 18th, 2000
  • One of our joys is the respect that our work receives from the people who see fit to take it into their homes. Compared to many other products, even hand-made products, art is guarded, insured, honored, re-framed and passed down from generation to generation. Read On

  • Joy of Amateurism
      February 15th, 2000
  • If you feel yourself at times an amateur--do not despair. Some of the great amateurs are the ones who show the way. Think of Cezanne fidgeting with more than fifty views of Mt St Victoire--never quite able to find the form of that difficult and amorphous mountain. Read On

  • The Intuitive Flow
      February 11th, 2000
  • Balancing your calculating brain and your intuitive flow is an easy dream and a difficult task. I think it's one of the true miracles. Read On

  • Notes On Colour
      February 8th, 2000
  • Josef Albers (1888-1976) painted and taught at the Bauhaus and the Yale School of Design and pioneered color-theory. His observations can be found in his extensive Interaction of Color (1963). Read On

  • Full speed ahead
      February 4th, 2000
  • The real question is how does an artist function in an environment where commercialism cohabits with creativity? Having good and bad art close at hand can either inspire or depress a painter. Read On

  • The One-Person Show
      February 1st, 2000
  • I remember my first one-man show many years ago. The only thing I was sure of was that my mom and dad would show up. That day, before the show, my mother gave me some of the best advice I ever had: "Be yourself." Read On

  • Colour Experimentation
      January 28th, 2000
  • In order to keep your integrity and at the same time keep up your enthusiasm you have to press on in your experimentation. One of the most rewarding fields of experimentation is with variation of palette. Read On

  • Brush with Illusion
      January 25th, 2000
  • Here's a simple idea that will almost always improve your work. Simply think and select the brush that will most easily get around the passage at hand. Read On

  • The Hawaii School
      January 21st, 2000
  • Here in the Hawaii art world there's the magic of light, sunsets, moonlight, whales, dolphins, beach-scapes, underwaters and transformers such as crashing breakers materializing into thundering white horses. Read On

  • Under the Banyan Tree
      January 18th, 2000
  • In Lahaina, on the island of Maui, there's a weekend outdoor art market around and under the world's biggest banyan tree. I'm watching the entrepreneur-artists set up their spaces in the early morning. Read On

  • OTD MAD
      January 14th, 2000
  • One of the essential principles of creativity is MAD. It's also known as OTD, but they amount to the same thing. MAD stands for "Make A Delivery," OTD for "Out The Door." Read On

  • The Art Patron
      January 7th, 2000
  • A painter who spends a lifetime following his nose sooner or later meets with some of his collectors. While I don't believe it's necessary to encourage this sort of thing one often finds good friends among them. Read On

  • Pencilling-in Projects
      January 4th, 2000
  • You know about the concept of "pencilling in" projects or appointments in your day-books or organizers. If a painting idea comes to mind I pencil it in, giving a sense of schedule and timing which seems often to miraculously bring it about. If it does not happen it was not meant to be. Read On




TWL Letters

Be witness to Robert Genn's abiding faith in the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists and you will be informed, inspired, and motivated. On first publication of this book November 27, 2009, Robert wrote: "It's my sincere wish that you get real and lasting value from it. It's your book, really, and I'd like to thank everyone in our Painter's Keys Community for the inspiration that makes these Twice-Weekly Letters happen."

Temporarily out of stock

"Thank-you for your friendship." (Robert Genn)

The Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letters, 960 pages--ten years of over a thousand unabridged letters including an 82 page index. Six by nine inches and more than two inches thick, this beautiful book is hardbound Red Cayenne with a separate dust-jacket, a red ribbon, and shipped in a custom protective book-box.

Last modified: Feb 26, 2017