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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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2010 Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

  • Fighting the blues
      November 30th, 2010
  • Robert gives three lead-pipe cures for the blues that follows too much influence--workshops, residencies and exhibitions. You know the feeling. Read On

  • A morning walk
      November 19th, 2010
  • Robert takes a long walk in the early morning. Gathering thoughts and plans, he sets himself up for a creative day. Read On

  • The divided self
      October 29th, 2010
  • New light is thrown on persistent procrastination with an understanding of "the divided self." It's not just us--more than one of us are responsible. Read On

  • Peanuts online
      October 26th, 2010
  • There's a current trend where everyone and his sister have tiny sketches (peanuts) and "one-a-days" available online at fire-sale prices. Find out what's happening. Read On

  • Never satisfied
      October 22nd, 2010
  • Dissatisfied with your work? Robert details the four main types of creative dissatisfaction and gives their antidotes. Read On

  • Cuckoo
      October 19th, 2010
  • A student wants to add humour and whimsicality to her work. Robert gives a few ideas how to do it. Read On

  • The bigger questions
      September 7th, 2010
  • Robert looks at the difference between "pretty pictures" and art that tries to deal with the "bigger questions." Turns out there's room for both and the two are not mutually exclusive. Read On

  • Talking about colour
      September 3rd, 2010
  • Robert gives a few valuable ideas on translating what you see into credible works of art. Recent linguistic research throws light on some of our creative problems. Read On

  • A great commercial conspiracy
      August 24th, 2010
  • Robert takes a look at the remarkable best seller "Seven Days in the Art World" by Sarah Thornton. Meet the international critics, curators, artists, dealers and publishers who make it happen. Read On

  • Art in a beehive
      August 17th, 2010
  • Robert takes a look at the current trend of dedicated studios for rent in underutilize building. He gives some guidelines and cautionary warnings. Read On

  • Bay of Plenty
      July 27th, 2010
  • While painting in a boat in a northern bay, Robert considers the stuff that may be going on, or not going on, in an artist's head. Read On

  • Finding your voice
      July 23rd, 2010
  • Robert attempts to answer the question, "What's my voice?" Sometimes the problem can be in the asking or in the plan to get one. Read On

  • Something about islands
      July 20th, 2010
  • Robert scrambles onto a couple of remote islands named for a member of his family. Islands, he finds, have remarkable creative value, both as symbols and subject matter. Read On

  • Leaving things incomplete
      July 13th, 2010
  • Robert explains the Japanese concept of leaving things incomplete (the principle of "Mujo") and suggests how some valuable lessons can be applied to our own work. Read On

  • Retsu Wabi-Sabi
      July 9th, 2010
  • Robert explains a method of regenerating creativity with the use of Retsu Wabi-Sabi. It's a quiet and beautiful way to float through life as well. Read On

  • The gradated life
      July 6th, 2010
  • Robert explains a Japanese painting style called Nihonga and the pictorial and emotional value of blends and gradations in all art. Read On

  • Influence
      July 2nd, 2010
  • Robert takes a close look at Toulouse-Lautrec's painting "Redhead," and comes up with some valuable observations that everyone else has missed. Read On

  • Tales the palettes tell
      June 29th, 2010
  • Robert looks at the palettes of some of the masters and explains what he thinks is going on. Palettes of van Gogh, Gauguin, Renoir and others are discussed. Read On

  • Appeal and provenance
      June 25th, 2010
  • Robert discusses the difference between art that has natural appeal, and that which requires active promotion. More "difficult" and higher priced art requires more provenance. Read On

  • Mastering Colour
      June 22nd, 2010
  • Robert discloses his personal struggles with colour and introduces an excellent downloadable video that sheds light on the subject. Read On

  • Three useful systems
      June 18th, 2010
  • Robert gives three practical systems for getting value on location. Simple habits, particularly at the beginning of a painting, pay rewards later. Read On

  • Mountain retreat
      June 15th, 2010
  • Robert is painting at a quiet cabin in the Canadian Rockies. Relaxed and reflective, he figures there is more time to contemplate and perhaps improve. Read On

  • What to expect
      June 11th, 2010
  • A group of recent art school graduates appears in Robert's studio. The conversation gives an idea of what we might expect in the future. Read On

  • A fresh start
      June 8th, 2010
  • Robert gives a few practical tips that take painters right back to the very basics of the craft. For starters anyway, students need to avoid "wrongness" and aim at "rightness." The breaking of rules comes later. Read On

  • The causes of popularity
      June 4th, 2010
  • Robert gives five reasons why the work of Vincent van Gogh is so widely loved. Surprisingly, none of them have much to do with talent, creativity or even his remarkable paintings. Read On

  • The navigation of wrong turns
      June 1st, 2010
  • Robert takes seven friends on a cruise where no one goes fully aground and nothing is totally scuttled. It's all about navigating for knowledge, fun, and maybe even profit. Read On

  • A place of no regrets
      May 28th, 2010
  • A 24 year old graduate tries to decide between her passion for painting and a life in education with all its security and benefits. Robert gives a plan and a livable contract. Read On

  • Hopeless?
      May 25th, 2010
  • A particularly distressed subscriber gets a bit of advice from the parallel mind of Vincent van Gogh. Art may be a bundle of joy at times, but it is also a tough order. Read On

  • The case for visualization
      May 21st, 2010
  • Robert examines the business of thinking things out. "One needs to beware of too much prior visualization," he says. "It is the inflicting of mind on an act that is ideally the progressive work of eyes and hands." Read On

  • My idle mind
      May 18th, 2010
  • Robert gets a brain scan and lives to talk about it. It seems that older people are a lot busier up there than previously thought. Read On

  • Fighting 'Painter's block'
      May 14th, 2010
  • Painters' block is very real and manifests itself in a variety of forms. Understanding the origins of blockage goes a long way towards its efficient elimination. Read On

  • A veil of tears
      May 11th, 2010
  • A reader reveals she cried during the execution of a self-portrait. Robert reports the phenomenon to be common and quite desirable, and explains why it happens. Read On

  • Perennial Puppy Syndrome
      May 7th, 2010
  • These days, our later maturity affects the way we think, the way we produce our work, and the standards we value. Our culture, and the people within it, are in a state of transition. Read On

  • The Voice of Fire
      May 4th, 2010
  • Robert joins in with a group of school kids learning about art at Canada's National Gallery. Some stuff just doesn't stand up without a well informed and enthusiastic explanation. Read On

  • The Next Big Thing
      April 27th, 2010
  • Robert confesses a weakness for installation art and current trends in painting. Now he's going to tell you about the "Next Big Thing." Read On

  • Choosing the right workshop
      April 23rd, 2010
  • Robert looks at the value of workshops as a means of gaining proficiency and creative joy. There are lots of them out there. Potential workshoppers and seminarians need to choose carefully. Read On

  • The case for no help
      April 20th, 2010
  • Robert looks at the idea of not teaching, not encouraging, and hardly mentoring young art students at all. Does better art arise from leaving people alone to struggle on their own? Read On

  • How's your myelin?
      April 13th, 2010
  • Robert examines the new studies on the role of myelin in the human brain. These days, neurologists think this previously neglected substance makes the difference between mediocrity and mastery. Read On

  • Letter to the Student of Painting
      April 9th, 2010
  • Here is the opportunity to give your honest effort and to add in any small way to the legacy of art. Cultivate patience in your heart and you will improve. Learn to see well and your hand will become sure. Read On

  • Fun with retreads
      April 6th, 2010
  • Older paintings from around the studio or returned from dealers can often be given a fresh life and made better. Robert explains how it works, and what the pitfalls are. Read On

  • Creativity and Fundamentalism
      April 2nd, 2010
  • Is there a possibility that religious fundamentalism may have a negative effect on the exercise of creativity? Is it possible that we may be doing a disservice to children being brought up in rigid religions? Robert looks at recent research. Read On

  • Birth notice
      March 30th, 2010
  • Robert delivers a simple system for overcoming negative ideas, work-related problems and personal impedimenta--a way to cut directly to "mission accomplished." Read On

  • Curiouser and curiouser
      March 26th, 2010
  • Based on simple curiosity, ideas and images flow naturally from one to another and form into an ever-expanding web. It's the reality of the independently curious, it's online, and it's going to be the new normal. Read On

  • Male Answer Syndrome
      March 23rd, 2010
  • "Male Answer Syndrome" (MAS) is the tendency among men to give answers to questions whether they know anything about the subject or not, particularly when in the presence of women. Find out how this applies to art. Read On

  • A trip of a lifetime
      March 12th, 2010
  • Mountain work is an excellent grounding in composition and pictorial design. With subject matter right up to and often beyond the top of a picture, as well as strong patterns of snow and talus, there are "ready-mades" everywhere. Read On

  • The sweet joy of lists
      March 9th, 2010
  • Lists can be a source of motivation. They bring the condensed wisdom of the successful in life and art to the attention of the students who may listen. But there is one, little known list that is valuable above all. Read On

  • Accessing the default mode network
      March 5th, 2010
  • Average people are in "task negative" for more than a third of their waking hours. Apparently, artistic and inventive folk are even more into it. As such, the "default mode network" is thought to be the buzzing beehive of creativity. Read On

  • The outlook for fame
      March 2nd, 2010
  • We are living at a time of obsession with celebrity. People substitute celebrities for friends and acquaintances. TV heads are good enough. Question is, I know David Letterman but does he know me? Read On

  • The fine art of exploration
      February 26th, 2010
  • Collectors take pride in recognizing a painter's work from across a crowded mall. The phenomenon can both bless and tyrannize. Robert sheds more light on the condition. Read On

  • The great fun of taxation
      February 23rd, 2010
  • Income tax time for artists. To report or not to report--that is the question. Tax expert Bob McMurray helps Robert with some practical answers and fresh ideas. Read On

  • You are living in an unreal world
      February 19th, 2010
  • A reader complains of the decline in art sales and success in the current recession. Robert puts "the sky is falling" into a universal perspective and gives surprising evidence of green shoots. Read On

  • The art of becoming
      February 16th, 2010
  • Unlike some other art forms, paintings can proceed without the benefit of change and becoming. Robert shows how visual works of art can sidestep the deep pits of creative failure and boredom. Read On

  • How galleries succeed
      February 12th, 2010
  • A reader remarks how commercial galleries are often run like museums. Robert observes the plurality of gallery culture and suggests a few ways to wake them up. Read On

  • Crisis of confidence
      February 9th, 2010
  • Readers complain of a "crisis of confidence" where work just doesn't cut it anymore. Robert lays out a simple program that sets artists on a new track with new inspiration and fresh work. Read On

  • Fighting the after-show blues
      February 5th, 2010
  • A reader notes a feeling of deep sadness, even shame and guilt, after the opening of her long-anticipated museum show. We explore the reasons for this common letdown, and offer a few thoughts from the past. Read On

  • The etiquette of mentoring
      January 29th, 2010
  • What do we say to those truly beginning artists who want to show and sell? How do we help and mentor people at any level become the artists they want to be? Read On

  • Gold mine
      January 22nd, 2010
  • Robert discovers a forgotten painting on the back of another that had been long out on loan. That's where the subject of money comes in, and the results may surprise you. Read On

  • The power of paucity
      January 19th, 2010
  • Consider the ploy of depicting less in order to achieve more. Paucity means smallness of number or quantity--in this case--strokes. Read On

  • Full immersion
      January 15th, 2010
  • The insight of a casual observer gives Robert some clues to imagination, skill, discovery and the transcending value of total immersion. Read On

  • Sunny side up
      January 12th, 2010
  • Maintaining a positive attitude is key to joy and success in our game. Robert provides a few unusual angles for keeping your sunny side up. Read On

  • Character and characteristics
      January 8th, 2010
  • Understanding the essential characteristics of pictorial elements is often more valuable than slavishly copying a specific item. Robert uses the example of a species of tree and suggests a better way of looking and seeing. Read On

  • Fighting the double demons
      January 5th, 2010
  • Robert attempts to help a subscriber who is caught between a full time job and the rigours of daily art production. Simple, oft-applied habits hold the key to a thriving full-time art career. Read On

  • Sharing studio spaces
      January 1st, 2010
  • Multiple artists in the same studio space can be a sticky wicket. From his extensive email from subscribers, Robert explains how different systems work and don't work. 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