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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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2009 Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

  • The fine art of giving
      December 25th, 2009
  • A long-lost painting returns to the artist's studio, stirring distant memories and reminding us of the passage of time and the relative permanence and continuation of art. Read On

  • The persistence of vision
      December 22nd, 2009
  • Reference material, whether live or canned, has brilliant values when used correctly. Robert deals with the under and overuse of material and gives a few practical and easily mastered visual-training habits. Read On

  • The full painting
      December 18th, 2009
  • The making of a "full painting" may require a re-jigging of priorities. We all have them, intuitive and otherwise, but we need to keep them burned into our psyches. It's all about a conscious examination of the work as it evolves. Read On

  • The values of big and small
      December 15th, 2009
  • The tendency for great size and monumentality in art has its roots in mankind's quest for power and dominion. Robert examines current trends and suggests a possible return to smaller, gentler values. Read On

  • When all the artists are women
      December 11th, 2009
  • As more and more women are early adopters of networking, self-improvement and learning, and more and more men seem to be lagging, the demographic in the art world is changing. Women may be poised to be the great artists of our time. Read On

  • Never too late
      December 8th, 2009
  • It's never too late to get good and get yourself out there. Robert examines the work of a 47 year old painter, tells why she is becoming successful, and gives fresh ideas to folks twice her age. Read On

  • The reinvention of prior art
      December 4th, 2009
  • Prior works are a happy hunting ground for study and improvement. We're not talking about working on them again, we're talking about starting again with the goal of evolution and improvement. Robert lays out a few key systems. Read On

  • A new book
      November 27th, 2009
  • Robert announces a new book of the complete Twice-Weekly letters so far--1042 letters, 960 pages of concentrated information and inspiration in one handsome volume. Read On

  • Projectors and such
      November 24th, 2009
  • Tracing material with the use of projectors has been around for a while. Robert looks at the brilliant creative value of these systems, as well and their potential problems. Read On

  • The artifacts of our cultures
      November 20th, 2009
  • Through the research of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, we get an understanding how the human ego has taken over and sullied the natural pursuit of art. In so doing it has stolen art's main purpose. Read On

  • Smoke, mirrors and viewfinders
      November 17th, 2009
  • Various tools, techniques and devices are used in reassessing subjects and works-in-progress. Bringing a different point of view, they also bring on something else that is more valuable than anything yet devised. Read On

  • The art of teaching art
      November 13th, 2009
  • An anonymous writer attributes creative success to the early avoidance of teaching art. Robert discloses some of the values and pitfalls for both students and teachers. Read On

  • What is art?
      November 10th, 2009
  • A gallery visitor asks the time-worn question 'What is art?' and Robert tries to help her out. It doesn't require very much talking. Read On

  • Good news for bad moods
      November 6th, 2009
  • New research in Australia seems to show that bad moods actually help people to focus and be more attentive. Robert looks at the artistic potential in the occasional and not so occasional bad mood. Read On

  • Worried about income
      November 3rd, 2009
  • Given time, a properly-run life in art can build to such outrageous monetary levels you have to slap yourself hard to contain your hubris. Robert passes on some of the keys you need to make it happen. Read On

  • On finding form
      October 30th, 2009
  • The masters have always understood that form is a hard-won servant and needed for successful work. For both realism and abstraction, mental tricks and applied subterfuge tease it out. Read On

  • What happens?
      October 27th, 2009
  • A letter from Chadds Ford, PA, is an appreciation and assessment of the work on N.C. Wyeth. With input from his son Andrew, an understanding of the fragility of motivation is exposed. Read On

  • Sargent and the sea
      October 23rd, 2009
  • The paintings of John Singer Sargent, currently on display at the Corcoran in Washington, DC, give an insight into the sources that cause a brush to start moving. Read On

  • The miracles of attention and focus
      October 16th, 2009
  • With the use of an hourglass, students learn to pay attention and focus on the work at hand. Developing higher levels of concentration is now seen to be at the base of happiness and success in both art and life. Read On

  • A list of mistakes
      October 13th, 2009
  • Popular assumptions such as the need for perfection and the persistence of error hamstring artists. Some, perhaps a few, get the idea that it's all about process, failure and the miraculous presence of mistakes. Read On

  • Should I destroy them?
      October 9th, 2009
  • Wondering what to do with older, less satisfactory work? Do you feel the need to chuck out, paint over, forget, or archive for posterity? Robert gives a few insights. Read On

  • Switch to swatch
      October 6th, 2009
  • Well-designed shapes are more important than practically any other element in a painting. Here are a few ideas for tracking them down and putting them into your own work. Read On

  • Tune up
      October 2nd, 2009
  • Wandering in the wilderness becomes an opportunity to feel the spirit and get inspired. Nature discloses and nature heals when you just sit and paint. Read On

  • How to beat painter's block
      September 29th, 2009
  • Stuck looking at a blank canvas. Can't figure out what to paint? Robert identifies several popular pitfalls and gives key methods for getting around painter's block. Read On

  • Dissatisfaction
      September 25th, 2009
  • Being dissatisfied is an art and a significant key to creative progress. It needs to be done at the right time and place, and may require a bit of personal subterfuge and self-delusion. Read On

  • Odd ways to find your muse
      September 18th, 2009
  • Throughout history, painters and writers have turned to bizarre ways to bring on the muse. Normal behavior or not, these deep-seated motivators need not be overlooked. Read On

  • Li'l Van Go
      September 15th, 2009
  • A panel van, fitted out with a skylight and an easel station, can take an artist not only out and around, but into a valuable state of mind. Robert explains how it works. Read On

  • The Exploratorium
      September 11th, 2009
  • The Exploratorium, an interactive art and science museum in San Francisco, is a metaphor for the Universe at large and the microcosm of our own studios. The idea is to get your hands on and your curiosity engaged. Read On

  • Can't be helped?
      September 8th, 2009
  • Here are a few devious ploys teachers can use to get art students to take serious interest in mastering the basics. And here are a few things dedicated students can watch for when attending workshops. Read On

  • The Letters
      September 4th, 2009
  • Robert and his staff are currently putting together a fat book containing all of the twice-weekly letters so far. Readers are invited to make their own contribution to the effort. Read On

  • A methodical pursuit of style
      September 1st, 2009
  • Artists struggle to acquire a personal style. Apart from sitting around waiting for one to arrive, Robert exposes another style-generating method he doesn't really believe in, but you might. Read On

  • Should I give up?
      August 25th, 2009
  • A reader submits her work and asks if she should give up. Robert offers some sage advice based on his own highly successful career. Read On

  • Ancient Chinese guidance
      August 21st, 2009
  • Chinese sages have been offering advice to painters for at least two thousand years. Is there value in this guidance, and what can it say to today's artists? Read On

  • Painting emotion
      August 18th, 2009
  • A reader writes to ask how to include more emotion in his otherwise excellent paintings. Robert's answer lies in the denial of his formalized and conservative consistency. Read On

  • Divestiture
      August 11th, 2009
  • Robert gives advice on placement of a collection of artwork into suitable galleries, as well as other systems of distribution and divestiture. Read On

  • Sketches on location
      August 4th, 2009
  • Robert takes exception with those artists who love to make preliminary drawings before starting to paint. While it's a minor commercial decision, it's really all about catching the moment. Read On

  • Thinking ahead
      July 31st, 2009
  • Robert gives pointers on art materials for back-packing into remote places, while drawing inspiration from a surprising source. Read On

  • Strong and wrong
      July 28th, 2009
  • Two painters attempt large canvases high up in the Rocky Mountains. Ideas of spirituality mix with a commitment to strength and boldness in keeping with the mysterious grandeur. Read On

  • Running out of time
      July 24th, 2009
  • In his final lecture Randy Pausch gave some simple but remarkable insight into the management of time. He gave us something else wonderful as well, and Robert explores this. Read On

  • The aggressive artist
      July 21st, 2009
  • A subscriber wonders if more aggressive selling of our art is what's needed in these times. Robert offers another way, and it's probably not what you think. Read On

  • Painting on the phone
      July 17th, 2009
  • Brilliant art is being created on the tiny screens of cell phones. Pocket-sized, email friendly, printable and apparently saleable, the images are viral. A short video describes the phenomenon. Read On

  • Distortion in figurative art
      July 10th, 2009
  • Distortion of the human figure is big stuff these days. Is it legitimate or is it a freakish form of caricature? Where does the urge come from and what are its limitations? Read On

  • Changing titles
      July 7th, 2009
  • Titles give key information that connects a viewer to your work. Often overlooked or misunderstood, titling is both an art and a ploy. Artists do well to think about their titles. Read On

  • Managerial Mode
      July 3rd, 2009
  • Your inherent laziness can be a key to the managerial mode. Management and self-management’s business is strategy, and when you don’t have strategy, you may be a rudderless ship. Read On

  • Where's the juice?
      June 30th, 2009
  • What happens when an artist starts to lose a sense of direction? How do we get the juices to come back? What sort of questions do we have to ask ourselves? Read On

  • Transartistic meditation
      June 26th, 2009
  • Consider combining creative work with time-honoured techniques of transcendental meditation. With a new spin, a special kind of "flow" happens as you drift into "the zone." Read On

  • Patterns
      June 23rd, 2009
  • In the transition from reality to the practicalities of pictorial composition, there's the need for an effective value pattern. Pattern is the skeleton that holds work together and entrances the viewer. Read On

  • Serious artist
      June 19th, 2009
  • The term “serious artist” draws divisions between different art forms and disciplines. What if it’s all about play, and our creative muse is one great playground? Read On

  • Just a reminder
      June 16th, 2009
  • Even in out-of-the-way places artists can be in touch with a worldwide support group. Mere reminders may be all we need to improve and thrive. Read On

  • The art lotto
      June 12th, 2009
  • There's one brilliant way to increase our chances of pulling winners out of the hat. In the art game, it's how we stack our deck. Read On

  • A treasured mapbook
      June 9th, 2009
  • Photocopies of maps and charts, arranged chronologically, can be a valuable tool for the travelling artist. Properly marked, they contain information inviting further ideas and exploration. Read On

  • Bartering for fun and profit
      June 5th, 2009
  • Bartering is a fun way to get your art out and around and to profit when you might not otherwise do so. There are a few pitfalls but the tactic seems to be on the rise again. Read On

  • Winners and losers
      June 2nd, 2009
  • What is it that makes some of us winners and others losers? What is winning anyway? Robert names some of the attitudes and actions that make the good stuff happen. Read On

  • Stereotype threat
      May 29th, 2009
  • The stereotype that artists are condemned to a life of poverty is widespread, causing not a few artists to have that exact expectation. There's a way to beat it. Read On

  • How to control kissing
      May 26th, 2009
  • 'Kissing' is a compositional weakness that can also be used as a ploy. Painters need to understand why and when they kiss, and to what purpose. Read On

  • Off the beaten track
      May 19th, 2009
  • Living in small towns or remote places has its own challenges. How to let folks in the greater world know what you're up to is one of them. Read On

  • The wise juror
      May 15th, 2009
  • A letter from a juror to a rejected artist sets off an understanding of the true purpose of art and offers powerful reasons to keep on going. Read On

  • The flat trumpet of self-esteem
      May 8th, 2009
  • Instead of measuring work against examples of excellence, we now honour mediocrity as well. The self-esteem industry has put the cart before the horse, and we are the lesser for it. Read On

  • Sterility
      May 5th, 2009
  • Artists often find themselves in a state where nothing turns them on, nothing seems worthwhile. The tank is on empty. Here are some of Robert's ploys for refilling the tank. Read On

  • Hyper-perfectionism
      May 1st, 2009
  • Work can sit on the easel for months, even years. The afflicted artist may be dedicated, hard-working and obsessive. In mild cases he takes a very long time to get to signing, let alone to making a delivery. Read On

  • Resurrection
      April 28th, 2009
  • Taking a successful work and resurrecting it as another has both traditional conventions and creative pitfalls. Here are a few thoughts when you want to make it happen. Read On

  • Keep moving
      April 21st, 2009
  • New research indicates that active movement may be an aid to learning, concentration and physical production, including the making of art. Read On

  • A dissatisfied artist
      April 17th, 2009
  • The current bad times are causing dissatisfaction and anger among artists. Some are pessimistic, but there are other ways of looking at the situation. Read On

  • Post-Show Blues
      April 14th, 2009
  • Artists often have trouble re-firing their furnaces in the period right after shows and exhibitions. There are ways of understanding the condition, and there are ways of overcoming the commonplace problem. Read On

  • The elements of abstraction
      April 10th, 2009
  • Abstraction is a poorly understood term for a wide range of art. But it holds within it a great opportunity for serious play and the exploration of the subconscious mind. Find out how. Read On

  • The art of innovation
      April 7th, 2009
  • Innovation is the life blood of artists. In these troubled times the persistently curious and the inventive will thrive. Find out how to put innovation to work for you. Read On

  • The art income shock
      April 3rd, 2009
  • A recent Canadian study paints a depressing picture of artists' incomes. The respondent-driven sampling gives a skewed idea of what artists can and do make. Read On

  • Eccentricity
      March 31st, 2009
  • Artists are often accused of eccentricity. Robert looks at the uses and abuses of the condition, and proceeds to honour eccentricity as a valuable feature of individualism. Read On

  • Selective focus
      March 27th, 2009
  • Artists have a great many illusions available to them to control the eye movements and interest of passing viewers. Selective focus, early discovered but now often neglected, is well worth understanding. Read On

  • Choices
      March 24th, 2009
  • The making of art is a series of choices, some minor, some major. The choices we make determine our signature, our style and our level of personal satisfaction. Read On

  • In search of John Collier
      March 17th, 2009
  • John Collier was a significant painter at the height of the British Empire. Attitude, application and belief in the importance of it all contributed to his masterful work. Read On

  • Habits for success
      March 13th, 2009
  • John Di Lemme has written elegantly on the nature and uses of habit. Both negative and positive--you can engage any kind of habit your heart desires--but make no mistake, habits are the keys to your destiny. Read On

  • Artists for something
      March 10th, 2009
  • While some artists are asking for charity, others are following their sincere passions. Robert explains why the latter is the most effective route to joy and solvency. Read On

  • Feeling blue
      March 6th, 2009
  • Recent research throws some more light on the psychological value of blue. Apparently it's not just ethereal and mind expanding, it can make you more creative. Read On

  • Lessons learned
      March 3rd, 2009
  • It's a remarkable experience to receive a crit from a huge cross-section of willing participants. Is it valuable, or is it a pointless exercise? Read On

  • Asking your opinion
      February 27th, 2009
  • Robert experiments with the idea of getting a lot of opinions on an unfinished work. Is the opinion of others worthwhile? Who do we turn to? Read On

  • Conspicuous consumption
      February 24th, 2009
  • Economist Thorstein Veblen's concept of "conspicuous consumption" has wide ranging implications for today's artists. Here are the dynamics of what's happening right now. Read On

  • The art instinct
      February 20th, 2009
  • Denis Dutton's remarkable new book "The Art Instinct" links Darwin's theory of evolution with the origins, production and appreciation of art. Prepare yourself for some surprises. Read On

  • Irwin Greenberg
      February 17th, 2009
  • Irwin Greenberg, 87, has taught thousands of artists not just technique, but the very attitudes and habits one needs to develop if one would be successful. Read On

  • Advisory panel
      February 13th, 2009
  • Sitting on an art-advisory panel, giving artists encouragement and suggestions of "what to do next" clarifies some valuable mentoring truths. Read On

  • Painting 'Uncle Ho'
      February 10th, 2009
  • A connection with a famous Vietnamese portrait painter brings out some of the universal problems and solutions in that difficult art. Read On

  • Where does it come from?
      February 6th, 2009
  • Where does it come from? In a place like Vietnam, where the people have experienced great injustice, their art shows little anger and bitterness, but instead reveals their gentle humanism. Read On

  • Talent
      February 3rd, 2009
  • Talent is often thought of as those sorts of gifts we are born with--blessings like beauty and brains--or as abilities to be developed, such as drawing, painting or musicianship. One thing's for sure: having talent doesn't mean you're fated to make it work for you. Read On

  • The price of popularity
      January 30th, 2009
  • Andrew Wyeth got mighty good at his craft and painted not a few American icons. Yet the critics never missed a chance to dump on him. The richer he got, the more they dumped. Maybe some critics have 'painting envy.' Read On

  • Economics 101
      January 27th, 2009
  • What will happen to us creative spirits during the economic downturn? While I'm no economist, there's evidence of a hard truth... and 3 available strategies to consider. Read On

  • Compositional keys
      January 23rd, 2009
  • Composition is often the 'make-or-break' of a successful painting. Eleven valuable but breakable keys to successful compositions give pause and understanding to the art. Read On

  • Whistler's dilemma
      January 20th, 2009
  • A subscriber with a famous name asks what to do about the association and how he might sign his own name. As usual, individualism triumphs. Read On

  • Four excellent questions
      January 16th, 2009
  • The business of scheduling, self-management, controlling work-volume, goal setting and taking time for creative exploration are major concerns of professionals. Surprising variations arise in a life of application. Read On

  • The frequent-pause system
      January 13th, 2009
  • Working in less-than-perfect conditions reveals some methodologies that give a new spin to creativity, and may actually improve it. Good things come from inconvenience. Read On

  • The problem with stealing
      January 9th, 2009
  • Protecting images by watermarking, small-filing, or claiming copyright may not be enough on today's Internet. But there are other things you can do and other ways of looking at the machines. Read On

  • Laziness
      January 6th, 2009
  • Simple laziness is one of the basic, oft overlooked impediments to the creative life. Here are a few antidotes and a sure-fire method of beating the malaise when it breaks out in your studio. Read On

  • How to find passion
      January 2nd, 2009
  • Passion is a commodity that some seek and never find. Others manifest it in spades and it guides their lives. This letter is a key to finding it from some who have found it. 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