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The fine art of hoarding

July 17, 2012

Dear Artist,

The next edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is going to include the new category of "Hoarding"--no longer just a branch of OCD, it seems, but a distinct malaise. We all know of someone whose home is clogged with old newspapers and other unusable detritus. We may also know of people with a buildup of clothes, books, animals, dolls or empty liquor bottles. Others we know suffer from the hoarding of stamps, old vehicles, money, information, and art. What I want to talk about here are artists who hoard their own artwork.

Without disclosing the names of friends and associates, some among us have a hard time letting go of work. Some have accumulated so much of their own art that they've built separate buildings to house it.

Psychiatrists suggest that even mild hoarding may be the result of a childhood trauma or a threatening event. In my case, I can identify the time and place. At age about four I was at the seashore playing with a box of chestnuts when they were all swept away by a rogue wave. I screamed my best primal scream and my mom had to swim out and rescue every last nut.

Since that day I've feared losing my stuff. However, with calculated self-delusion, I've been able to rationalize that while my work may be on someone else's wall, it's still mine.

Attitudes of preciousness and unwillingness to release are fairly common among artists, and this knowledge has helped me deal with my own problem. I'd appreciate if you didn't mention my problem. My question is to what degree it may be a beneficial problem.

When we begin to see our work as the main currency of our lives, it becomes important that it be half-decent work--as high in quality as we are, at the time, capable. We may even feel the need to keep replacing our lesser work with what we perceive as better work. While we may forever be aware of our work's shortcomings, we allow ourselves to fall just a bit in love with it. This commitment may go some distance in reconfirming self-love. "I am not a loser." Is this a bad thing?

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "When a loss is significant, the person feels a stronger, deeper need to replace." (Elaine Birchell, social worker)

Esoterica: There are several conditions that accompany hoarding in many, but not all, afflicted artists. One is a protective wall of self-importance and exceptionalism--a risky sentiment which, in some cases, is only modestly deserved. Another is blindness to possibilities of self-improvement. Growth atrophies as the artist operates from an ivory tower protected by a moat of his own fears. Another condition is the constant and perennial need to perfect the work. This can be simply an excuse not to let go of it. Thus, work is never delivered, and the relieved artist is never in any danger of loss.





Early art not precious
by Susie Cipolla, Whistler, BC, Canada


Three years ago I took my first art workshop with artist Brian Atyeo and I made my very first A Girls Best Friend<br>original painting by Susie Cipolla A Girls Best Friend
original painting
painting. At the end of day one Brian tactfully asked me if I was very attached to it and would I like him to show me what he would do with it. I said "No thank-you. I think I will take my masterpiece home and show it to my family". Once home, I got a "hmmm" and a lacklustre "that's nice honey" so I took it back to class on day two. I watched Brian cover it in transparent red oxide and then proceed to paint a lovely landscape over my previous efforts. I learned a valuable lesson on day 2 of my painting career and that is to let it go and not be attached to anything I make. I also have a lovely Brian Atyeo original covering my very first effort.



There are 2 comments for Early art not precious by Susie Cipolla

From: liz schamehorn -- Jul 20, 2012

Brilliant portrait! Are you any relation to the Cipollas of Orillia?

From: Rose -- Jul 20, 2012

Great picture...I love it.


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Staying true to yourself
by Randy Davis, Killingworth, CT, USA


I feel the need to stay connected to myself is more important than to stay connected to anyone Untitled<br>original painting by Randy Davis Untitled
original painting
external to myself, especially anyone in the commerce end of art. Doing the work is for myself and is a concrete example of a "world" where no one else can influence me or where I am accountable to anyone. It is mine and mine alone. In this culture of social media and high external input, this is not only a luxury, but one of the most basic human needs I can think of. So, no, I don't think it's a bad thing at all to be partial to your own work. Who said successful art should be revealed to anyone else to begin with? The real necessity of doing it had nothing to do with the culture of market.



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Continuing the adventure
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA


I never felt the need or desire to hoard or hold on to my paintings. I think it is because my Anastasia Evening<br>acrylic painting by Linda Blondheim Anastasia Evening
acrylic painting
love is for the adventure and process of painting. I am a compulsive learner. I love trying new palettes, technique and brushwork. The finished painting gives a sense of satisfaction, but I am anxious to find it a new home so I can continue my adventure again with the next painting.



There are 4 comments for Continuing the adventure by Linda Blondheim

From: Terry -- Jul 19, 2012

Gorgeous painting, Linda, and I share your feeling. I think I enjoy the process of painting more than the final product. I am usually ready to let it go and move on to the next challenge.

From: Jill Paris Rody -- Jul 19, 2012

Such a beautiful Palette, and tranquil, restful painting. Thank you for sharing!

From: Linda Blondheim -- Jul 20, 2012

Thanks for the very kind comments.
Love,
Linda

From: Anonymous -- Jul 23, 2012

I couldn't agree with Linda more. I think there are 2 paintings that I would like to keep hold of, as for the rest I'll be happy when I can find new homes for them


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Donating to let go
by Dennis Koch, Dunnellon, FL, USA


Hoarding can be a problem for some of us artists. I have forced myself to donate to Habitat for Humanity in order to let go of some of my work. Recently, I was thinking about two pieces from a series I have worked on and, lo and behold, realized I had let them both go--to my chagrin. So letting go of "stuff" sometimes might be a good thing... but one has to be careful not to dump a fine work that is going to be missed. Thankfully, I can continue a series anytime I desire.



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How to get rid of bad art?
by Marjorie Moeser, Toronto, ON, Canada


Hoarding brings to mind a constant dilemma of mine. When getting rid of a "failed" canvas or one that Guanajuato<br>acrylic painting by Marjorie Moeser Guanajuato
acrylic painting
has simply outlived its prime, I have tried 2 methods: one, I paint right over the assumed poor canvas; secondly, I throw it out in the garbage (most often this takes the form of simply laying it on the sidewalk for all and sundry to walk by and take or simply ignore it). Since I deem this work not one of my finest, I am in a dilemma of knowing whether or not I should black out my signature. I lean towards doing just that. However, if I do that, chances of someone taking it away become next to nil. Who wants a painting with a big black mark at the bottom?

(RG note) Thanks, Marjorie. It's most important that you don't clutter up your neighbourhood sidewalks with substandard work, signed or unsigned. I've noticed that passersby will pick up and take away art left anywhere no matter how bad it is. Even high-class folks cannot resist such a bargain. Consider priming over and starting anew. If your primed-over supports seem permanently jinxed, and you feel you just can't work on them, my choice would be to save them for the winter and slip them into the fireplace.



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Changing your attitude
by Joseph Jahn, Nibe, Denmark


Thanks for the food for thought, and I'll not mention your problem. Funny thing is I used your Abstract<br>original painting by Joseph Jahn Abstract
original painting
thought to my advantage by turning it into a positive view of my own work. Lately I've been a bit stuck and then I read your letter and turned it into "why not paint this one as if I'm going to keep it, and not send it to the gallery for sale?" And, to my surprise that changed the direction of the present work on the easel in a positive way. BTW my wife and I occasionally watch the TV series "Hoarders" and are pleased to report that our not-so-minimalistic lifestyle has not reached that level.



There is 1 comment for Changing your attitude by Joseph Jahn

From: Liz Reday -- Jul 25, 2012

Another delightfully loopy lovely loose painting from Mr. Jahn! I love your work.


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Final validation
by Diane Doerr-Mitchell, Clintonville ,West Virginia, USA


Hoarding - not me. I have been doing watercolors for maybe 4 years now. I belong to a great Art My Dad<br>watercolour painting by Diane Doerr-Mitchell My Dad
watercolour painting
group locally and they keep telling me my stuff is getting better and better. Great support but they are always so.... nice. I haven't gotten to a hoarding stage - I am so happy when my stuff sells. It is that final validation and keeps me going. The colors on the paper and the end result are also a major influence of course! But when a piece sells it means someone else - a total stranger - saw what I meant, got what I was saying, therefore validating - me. An artist. Something I always wanted since I was a kid.



There are 2 comments for Final validation by Diane Doerr-Mitchell

From: Patricia Warren -- Jul 20, 2012

Absolutely lovely!

From: Julie Roberts -- Jul 20, 2012

Diane, as a watercolour portrait artist in a realistic style, I'm admiring your clever use of this medium. I admire the looseness of the paint which succeeds in capturing a moment in time and avoids looking static as in a photograph. You've encouraged me to put more effort to go in that direction.


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The Unknown Masterpiece
by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA


"Another condition is the constant and perennial need to perfect the work." This reminds me of Roadkill<br>bronze sculpture by Warren Criswell Roadkill
bronze sculpture
Giacometti 's obsessive feeling that it was impossible ever to finish a work, and Balzac's story The Unknown Masterpiece .

It's set in Paris in the time of Poussin, who is a character in the story. The painter Frenhofer had been working on a painting for a decade, letting no one see it until now:

"The two painters left the old man to his ecstasy, and tried to ascertain whether the light that fell full upon the canvas had in some way neutralized all the effect for them. They moved to the right and left of the picture; they came in front, bending down and standing upright by turns...

'The old lansquenet is laughing at us,' said Poussin, coming once more toward the supposed picture. 'I can see nothing there but confused masses of color and a multitude of fantastical lines that go to make a dead wall of paint.'

'We are mistaken, look!' said Porbus.

In a corner of the canvas as they came nearer, they distinguished a bare foot emerging from the chaos of color, half-tints and vague shadows that made up a dim, formless fog....

Frenhofer looked for a moment at his picture, and staggered back.

'Nothing! Nothing! After ten years of work...'

He sat down and wept."



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Helen Walter and Keith Thirgood workshops Held in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Helen Walter and Keith Thirgood workshops
Held in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Robin Leddy Giustina,



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Jim Lorriman of Shelburne, ON, Canada, who wrote, "While I don't hoard my work, my raw material is another matter. I am slowly coming to terms with my multiple lifetimes' supply of wood!"

And also Dorothy Josey of Spartanburg, SC, USA, who wrote, "I keep two types of my paintings: ones that I don't consider up to my standards and the once-in-a-blue-moon ones that are so good I can't believe I did them. Take twenty paintings I've done: about 15 are good, 4 stink and one is so good I don't know how I did it."

And also Catherine Stock of France, who wrote, "In a way, being happy to hold onto your work can be a good thing. Sometimes people try to beat down my price which completely destroys my joy in releasing the work to them, so I don't."

And also Ann Ella Joubert of Facebook who wrote, "I am a clutterbug and it's getting to me what to keep and what to throw or give away. Thanks."


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The fine art of hoarding...

From: charles peck -- Jul 16, 2012

I am afraid no weighty issues of personal mind games has caused my stuff to accumulate, rather I paint more than what sells. Sure my stuff may not be good enough to sell and that would relieve me of any trepidations that I was just too damn lazy marketing my stuff. I would rather paint than go through the carnival junk of selling by spotting and manipulating some customerís emotional imbalance that can be righted with the purchase of my Fine Art Work proving to the world they are sophisticated and discriminating citizens while giving them a daily metaphysical boost by simply being quiet and reflecting on my work they have hung on their wall.

From: Sorby -- Jul 16, 2012

The last three lines of esoterica illustrate my ex boyfriend who, in my view, was a brilliant printmaker but who just didn't believe this or in himself. Painful to watch! I reject the Burchill comment though: in all the severe hoarders I know, all did so that "no one can take this away from me". While I appreciate your personal comment on hoarding, it is actually very distressing for all parties exposed to it. My father in law hoarded in the last years of his life. It took several men and 3 weeks to clear his house...very traumatic.ui

From: Doug Mays -- Jul 17, 2012

Alas, like your chestnut collection I had a magnificent marble collection of which I was most proud. Today they're all gone and I don't really miss them that much but I'm most curious to know exactly when I lost my marbles.......

From: Chris Everest -- Jul 17, 2012

Yes but, No but... When does "collecting" count as hoarding. I collect images that trigger some idea in my head. I collect articles that deal with issues that I feel might impinge on my way of thinking. I save notes that I've made. I keep a journal. I save found objects that might one day turn into great bricolage. I have a library.
On the other hand my late father was terrified that I might die before him and he'd have to clean the house out. I accept the possible borderlines of OCD and try to justify it all as creativity. I'm not sure the family agree.

From: Louise Francke -- Jul 17, 2012

Bad paintings I have kept are used as panels to be painted over and hopefully something better will evolve. Sometimes it takes longer to realize it is a piece of s___. My greatest sin is hoarding art supplies in various media. I also tend to fill every flat surface with art works in the process, referral art books, and the materials being currently used. Periodically I do go through my bin where old lithographs, woodcuts, etchings are stored. Any with physical damage are routinely scrapped.

From: Lucy Foglietta -- Jul 17, 2012

I am guilty of hoarding my own art. I price my pieces purposely high because I really don't want to sell them; they contain a large piece of me. I have trouble parting with them because I am sometimes not sure that I can even replicate them; can I go there emotionally again. I have given original pieces of art that I am very proud of to family or close friends but only after making 10 prints first. The danger of keeping all your art is that your rejects can bring you down being around you; your failures stare you in the face. Do we hang our best and hide the rest? Help!

From: Mystery Guest -- Jul 17, 2012

Well, this one struck so many chords with me, I should compose a symphony of the notes. Just a few random thoughts.

I have known writers who collected rejection slips. One woman papered her room with them. Anyone can get them. Do publishers still mail them out ? I suspect it's all done via email, now. Some were quite literary works, themselves. Another form of collectible ?

When so many artists are complaining about not being able to make a sale, they should be grateful for the "hoarders", who aren't a part of the competition.

When the desire for solitude is finally criminalized, I will be the prime revolutionary. I suppose the contemporary witch-label is not revolution, but terrorism. Whatever. I will certainly require the "treatments".

Let me share of my observations about the medical industry. Most shrinks get into the game because of their own inadequacies. If I had believed various doctors, I would not have been walking for the past twenty-five or so years, and I would have died over five years ago. Pardon me, if I continue to "do it myself".

Adrienne Barbeau's bio comes with the evocative title, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do".
I can identify with that. If I were not secluded in my hermitage being creative -- by my standards -- I would be roaming your streets, probably being very destructive. Aren't you glad I've chosen solitude ?

And I remember something else I heard or read many decades ago, which I will attribute to Joan W Anglund. It was something like " a poet wants only one small stone on which to carve his life". If I wish to make of myself that small stone, what is that to the rest of you ?

I know very well what has caused me to spend my life "hoarding" my outputs, literary and artistic. There are many "whys", but there is only one "because".

And, to paraphrase a Paul Simon contribution, "I have my art and my poetry to protect me."

And now, back to my garret. What should it be, today ? The easel, or the word processor ?

From: Karen -- Jul 17, 2012

My paintings are like children. I give birth to them, nurture them, and develop them. But then, once they are mature and ready to go, I can let them go on into the world. That is their purpose. I usually take some time to say goodbye. Maybe spend an evening and a glass of wine to enjoy them...and then, the next day they are free to be on their way.

From: Burke Zakaria -- Jul 17, 2012

The hoarding of money, which is the most widespread and acceptable form of hoarding, can be cross-generational as well. The father, for example, may have had a great financial loss due to theft, alcohol or poor business decisions, where the son goes to work to rebuild and make up for the father's losses. Trans generational art collecting tends to vary in the genre collected, whereas money for money's sake is just about regular money.

From: Terri -- Jul 17, 2012

You may call it hoarding - I call it the result of an economic downturn! :-)

From: Donna Jurovcik -- Jul 17, 2012

It is a real problem (much like keeping photographs, esp. when of our family. With me family included pets, flowers, special trees, animals there & things in my gardens. Yes & many many sketches & creations plus something written by me or other members. The stacks get higher but there are plastic boxes to slide under the bed & stack as high as the ceiling. It is a library of stuff from favorite things ... these are a few of my favorite things as Julie Andrews sings in Sound of Music; and then "After I'm Gone" another song...

From: Stuart Peterson -- Jul 17, 2012

ďLife is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.Ē
-- Marie Curie

From: Marvin Humphrey -- Jul 17, 2012

Picasso said that the sale of every one of his works was like having a little piece of himself taken away. In this sense, he could be regarded as a very generous person.

From: bluerabbit -- Jul 17, 2012

Terri, I love it! As far as "improving", eh, I think most of the artists making money right now are doing it by "improving" other artists by making them more like themselves, and, um, charging heft tuition fees to do it. People make art for different reasons. If Kinkaide kept all of his paintings in the garage, that would be hoarding commercial products. Each of the rest of us must allow others to think what they think of us. It's none of our business.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki -- Jul 17, 2012

I used to be thrilled when my paintings found new homes because I was always focused on what comes next. Lately I'm remembering old works which I would really, really love to have back. I even had this crazy idea of repainting all of my old paintings that I miss. But, I am starting to think that there is something else that still needs to be discovered within them. I recently repeated a couple of old works because my mind just wouldnít let those images go. I thought if I paint them again, maybe I will get bored and let the whole issue go. Interestingly, it felt very good although the resulting works looked like twins of the old ones. They went through a new process but there were no major discoveries which made me wonder if this is just a major case of avoidance. What about all those new paintings that are waiting to be born? Will new works be born from old ideas, or will they be free from the burdens of past? I wonder if this kind of thinking is after all related to hoarding (not letting go of old ideas) or is it just a normal creative process? I can think of many examples from the art world where artists have revisited the same idea over and over again throughout their life. But, was that a good thing?

From: Melissa Jean -- Jul 17, 2012

This letter hits home for me, in that last little part, this "constant and perennial need to perfect the work". I am so bold in the beginning of a new painting, and then I keep these guys around without finishing them, thinking that they could be better, or could they? I didn't think this was a problem with me, but every now and then it pops up, and I agonize over whether or not it's perfectly finished, whether it's "good enough" or could be better. This happens in spurts, maybe it has to do with the weather or some kind of imbalance, but every now and then it creeps up. So thanks for this letter, I now see what it is. Just gotta figure out how to get over it when it happens!

From: Linda Schmidt -- Jul 17, 2012

Perfectionism and hoarding are related.

Perfectionism forms an inner barrier to cutting clutter because the Perfectionist can't abide doing a less-than-perfect job. Without the time to give 110% to the project, the Perfectionist Clutterer prefers to let matters--and the piles of stuff--slide.

Without a dealer, the piles of art also build up and this becomes an estate planning problem. What will happen to all of the art when I am gone, who will take care of it? This makes the case for unloading it while one is still alive. How to go about it without a dealer is not so easy, easier to just let it pile up and forget about an issue one would rather not deal with. Finding the right dealer is more difficult for those who are not painters or photographers as there are conservation and storage issues with other media which many dealers museums don't want to be bothered with.

There also may be the fear that one's creativity may be taken away, the fear of losing one's creativity, the fear of not being able to produce another as good as the previous pieces.

From: Mary Ann Guliov -- Jul 17, 2012

In regards to Ďhoardingí art, I personally think itís a necessity for artists. If for no other reason, itís an excellent way to measure how far an artist has come over the years and how much theyíve learned and changed. Those sketches, studies and paintings that never sold may take up extra space but in my opinion, itís worth every square inch! Whenever I look through my Ďhoardedí work, I am amazed at how much Iíve grown over the years.

From: Jim Oberst -- Jul 17, 2012

When I first began painting, about nine years ago, it was my wife who couldn't bear to part with certain of my paintings. I, on the other hand, was anxious to make a few sales to convince myself that there was hope for me. Eventually, I convinced her that there will always be new paintings, and that some of them will be good. She bought into this idea so completely that now I look back wistfully at the days when she couldn't bear to part with some of my paintings. I am still in the mode of (almost) never being satisfied with what I paint, so I'm not hoarding any of my work yet. I hope I eventually get there.

From: Barbara Youtz -- Jul 17, 2012

Busted! Yes I hoard my paintings and now I don't feel so bad about it since I read "The fine art of hoarding." My paintings are part of who I am, so I like to save the best ones until I paint another one just as good. For years every time I looked at that pile of saved paintings I was reminded of the Mother Nature story.

It goes something like this. An old woman lived in a house in the woods, that's were lots of those stories take place. Anyhow she wore a red cap on her head, a black cape, gray dress and a white apron. One day she baked a batch of cookies and a poor man with no food smelled the cookies and followed the scent to her door. When she heard his knock she answered the door. The man told her he hadn't eaten for days and could he have a cookie. She said they were all too big and she would bake another batch and make him a small one. To make a long stories short she always have some excuse not to give the poor man a cookie. When Mother Nature saw what was happening she punished the woman by turning her into a woodpecker with a red cap, a white breast, black shoulders and a gray body. All day long the woodpecker has the work at pecking on trees looking for food.

Every time I looked at my paintings I felt guilty and remembered this fable. One day I started giving some of my paintings away. I gave one to a cousin, I traded some with other artists, and gave some to my children. Those paintings are now giving back to me, much more than we they were on a pile in my studio. Of course I still have a pretty large pile. I'm happy.

From: Linda Roth -- Jul 17, 2012

All the artwork in my house with the exception of ten pieces are mine. Indeed, I painted them for my house. Now my walls are tastefully filled but, I could be on the brink of hoarding, if I donít start taking the stuff that is accumulating to market. Iím joking, of course. I have gifted and sold my work throughout the years, but I have never attempted to make my art into a business. I think Iím talented, but I donít think my work is consistent in style, in medium or in subject. I feel I havenít ďgelledĒ yet. But Iím running out of time and Iíd like to. Itís now or never time. Does an artist have to work in only one or two mediums? Does an artist have to favor flowers and landscapes and never explore the other genres? All the great did. And thatís what has kept my art at home.

From: Anitta Trotter -- Jul 17, 2012

I was in my studio's storage area last night going over stuff. "I could sand this down and start again - it's perfectly good..." That was my head language. However, I realized life is moving at the same 24 hour pace as ever and time is running out. So stuff got piled into a box to be anonymously dropped off at the Sally Ann for someone with time, energy, youth and no money to say "Look what I found! And it was so cheap! All I have to do is paint over it and it will be perfect for ... !"

A few of the paintings which will never see an art sale again are going in the garden: my friend's husband took down an entire tree, exposing her pool to neighbouring eyes, so until the new plants grow, my artwork will add colour to her back fence.

From: Roxanne Naydan -- Jul 17, 2012

It's a real struggle for me to let go of things, some of which aren't beneficial to me. Thanks for sharing your story.

From: Nora Gross -- Jul 17, 2012

Most every artist has a mother who thinks that you are so special and you give her work to hang. I live in NS and visit Sask. often and when I would go out there I would take the 1/4 sheets of finished work and when she was not around, I would change the Ďinferiorí work with the newer improved and most times she would not notice. A couple of times she said that something was different-I never agreed. When she passed away at least the better pieces I was capable of doing went to the rest of the family.

From: Charles Peck -- Jul 17, 2012

I am afraid no weighty issues of personal mind games has caused my stuff to accumulate, rather I paint more than what sells. Sure my stuff may not be good enough to sell and that would relieve me of any trepidations that I was just too damn lazy marketing my stuff. I would rather paint than go through the carnival junk of selling by spotting and manipulating some customerís emotional imbalance that can be righted with the purchase of my Fine Art Work proving to the world they are sophisticated and discriminating citizens while giving them a daily metaphysical boost by simply being quite and reflecting on my work they have hung on their wall.

From: Pauline L. Lazzarini -- Jul 17, 2012

Many years ago I was a potter. I sold and gave away my best pots thinking I could always make more. I had to stop potting and I was left with only my seconds. My good pieces exist at others homes but I donít get to see them often. I have a few photos of some pots I parted with, but the rest are just memories. When my own children started to take pottery classes in high school I wanted to share my experience, but didnít have much to show them. I try to keep some of my best work in paintings so that when I die there will be proof that I did something good, though that may be my humble opinion.

To add to your loss of chestnuts as your reason why you hoard. My family moved to California from El Salvador when I was 9 after my father died. We left everything behind and I was allowed to carry two dolls and a small suitcase with a few necessities. The weather here being so different than the tropics my old clothes were not going to do me much good here. I felt that I lost my entire world. So, yes I am a collector or hoarder.

From: Teresa Sharp -- Jul 17, 2012

Just this year I decided to release original paintings (instead of prints), haven't sold anything yet but I tend to want to keep my favorite pieces...I want to be free to sell almost all, keep very few...not there yet.

From: Leslie Moody -- Jul 17, 2012

By the time that I have completed a piece of artwork, there is relationship to it. Recently, I sold a large piece that had been with me through a journey for a year. Selling it was an emotional mix of glee and sadness. Meeting the buyer eased my pain as she expressed her delight in my work. My repeated experience has been the joy of the whole process of investing heartfelt time and energy in creating a piece and then letting it go. I wouldn't trade that for anything! I guess I'm not a hoarder.

From: Victoria Page Miller -- Jul 18, 2012

Thank you for posting this article and for all of these wonderful follow on comments. I had a situation in my 20's where a friend who was storing my some of my things, including my art supplies and a large prized painting, decided to never return them. The betrayal, loss, and wound was so deep that I didn't paint for years. Rather than hoard, I was afraid to create another piece. Then, so much time had passed I was fearful that my skills were lost, or it was too late. Thankfully, that wasn't my last piece and none of it is true. Now, I look at sending out paintings as diaspora into the world. Messengers of love. I am happy if they leave and feel they will always be a part of me. The joy of having someone interested enough in my work to talk to me, and the excitement of selling face to face is incredible. I love knowing the paintings are going to good homes. Also, because of the digital age I know that they will live on in the internet as long as I took the time to get a good scan or photo.

From: Rick Rotante -- Jul 18, 2012

Keeping the "dogs" is a good thing-for while. I have early work that I considered good but didn't hit the mark, do to speak. I put them away on a shelf. Later, sometimes years later, I relook at them and see if what I missed the first time around can be seen and fixed. If I can rework it, great! If not, I either toss it (after cutting it up) or reuse the canvas on a newer, better work. I've always said that if fame comes my way conservators will have a field day when they x-ray my work. Good luck to them.

From: Sari Grove -- Jul 19, 2012

Jasper Johns keeps his work...Built a house for it...This is how he has maintained very high prices...Not crazy, just a smart businessman...

From: Moncy Barbour -- Jul 19, 2012

I have this same problem but it is because my work won't sell for my asking price.

From: Gail Shepley -- Jul 19, 2012

I felt an association with this and then decided that it was other loved ones who told me to hold onto my art stuff when I wanted to purge everything; and at this point the grandkids may have an empire?

From: Jackie Knott -- Jul 19, 2012

I'm at the other end of the spectrum. Keeping too much too long distresses me to where I MUST divest myself of "stuff" regularly. If something comes in the house, something else moves out. Relocating every five to seven years since childhood has definitely cured the tendency to hoard.
I like a clutter free, utterly comfortable, but orderly living environment and studio. Function overrides every other consideration. Sure, I have mementos but they are reasonable in anyone's book.
I have kept drawings and paintings I especially like but if it isn't sold, it's out the door. Those who despair commissions should understand there is an upside to the process - no accumulation.
If you can't sell it and for whatever reason can't part with it, that painting may be a candidate for the burn pile.
I have a family member who had a horrific childhood and survived twelve foster homes. Her house is one box short of the "Hoarders" television program. I have anxiety whenever I walk into her house but she LOVES it. There may be something in the psychology behind all this. Analyze your motives and move on.

From: Damaris O'Trand -- Jul 19, 2012

Something you said in your last letter, "When we begin to see our work as the main currency of our lives" triggered an insight of sorts. I think that identifying ourselves as "artists" is tricky because we mistakenly link happiness and success to the "perception" that our work is our self-worth and that if it doesn't sell or we can't make a living or if our paintings aren't critically acclaimed and the world is not beating a path to our door, it means we have somehow failed and are not "real" artists.

Breaking that sticky tricky identification frees us up to experiment with what we love and to not care whether our art pleases "the critics." I have spent twenty-five years listening to "the nattering nabobs of negativity" in my own mind and have identified the leading culprit. The inner critic who whispers, "Why Bother?"

"You're never going to be good enough, you are too old, art is impractical. You will starve."

I've learned to say, "Thanks for sharing. But today, I think I will use my time to better advantage." Or even, "Thanks for your unsolicited opinion, but I really am not open to your feedback at this time."

Anyway, the hoarding issue is right up there for all of the artists that I know who are producing on a daily basis.

And we each are dealing with our own inner demons. Good luck to us all.

From: Deb Semmens -- Jul 19, 2012

There is the whole self worth problem in regards to hoarding of ones own art. My little room is full of paintings because I don't yet have the confidence to sell it or for that matter even give it away! I am fairly new at this painting thing and look forward to clearing some space for the new and better. Apparently Ernest Hemingway had all of his work stolen from a train. He was really morose at first but then found it a relief and went on to produce his best works.

From: Emily Whittlesey -- Jul 19, 2012

Stockpiling food (old food particularly), hiding a cache of artwork, holding ideas (whether nasty or wonderful), all create toxic buildup, no?

I love your resolution: "while my work may be on someone else's wall, it's still mine."
Another look at what Buddhist philosophy means by letting go?

Thank you for your skillful way with ideas and words to express them.

You have helped me improve how I AM an artist.

From: cassandra -- Jul 19, 2012

Semantics is important to any discussion. Collecting would be keeping things of special value/interest to you your own production or others. Archiving would be keeping a set of benchmarks to measure progress but why more than one painting a year would be necessary I can't say. Hoarding is simply not letting go of anything at all - which relates to personality disorders. How many paintings you can keep and be healthy will vary. An accomplished professional selling well may want a good sized inventory to carry over when times are tough or if they can't work. A commercial artist doing decor paintings may be stuck with no longer trendy stuff that should be junked. An artist painting to express universal truths in a unique way may never sell e.g. Vincent. Hoarding must be either selfish or simply an accumulation of sub-standard or pretentious junk that no one wants. Some collectors lose focus and begin to hoard things much less valuable than where they began. I am a mere dabbler. The kind folks at the guild said hang it here, price it so. I was not comfortable selling my first dabblings so I stopped. I do hang them in our mud room and when someone says I like that, I say if you want it it is yours. Soon I will reprime and start over on the ones no one wants. Any pointers on how to get back to canvas when you have an ugly acrylic palette knife attempt? Has anyone tried a power washer?

From: Lindsay Bradley -- Jul 19, 2012

I have found the perfect gallery. This year when my parents moved into the local Seniors residence I noticed that there was very little on the corridor walls. I asked the administrator if she would like some original art work to hang in the hallways. She said that she would. I am now very famous at the residence. I keep changing the work about every six weeks. The staff and Seniors enjoy it very much.

From: Gail Caduff-Nash -- Jul 19, 2012

I collect too many things, to be sure. Mostly pieces of Nature. And tools that may be handy. And information. And sentimentalities. But I've kept most of my artwork for 20+ years around for different reasons. The pieces that were studies, I go back and study. The pieces that were emotional, I reflect on when I see them and compare them to today. The pieces that are good, I keep in case someone will want them as much as I do. And there is one painting I started 20 years ago that I call my Never Ending Painting. I add to it every so often. I realized that it's hard to finish a painting so I have this one that I never finish. That way I can finish the others and go back to that one. --- A friend once referred to her personal paperwork as her "Life Files", and I see my old work as being like that - a history of my life and works. I can see improvements as well as changes. Some things I did better back when. Sometimes my intuition was better than it is now. Sometimes I see things in the old work that I didn't see before. As long as there is value in it, I'll keep it around. And it proves that I wasn't just playing tiddlywinks. Sometimes it just shows that I was enjoying myself.

From: SwtCaroline -- Jul 20, 2012

My plein aire studies are like pages in the diary of my life. Each one elicits a wonderful memory of time, place, friends and enjoyment. I cannot part with them...they bring me much joy.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Jul 20, 2012

The reality shows on hoarders demonstrate the pathetic state of the media's (and general public's) ignorance and lack of empathy toward the mentally ill.

From: Tatjana M-P -- Jul 20, 2012

Cassandra, you can get to the bare canvas by scrubbing acrylic under very hot water. Acrylic breaks down under heat.

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland -- Jul 24, 2012

Thinking about possessions in general, the best cure I ever found for hoarding is to move countries, preferably from one with large houses to one with small houses, like I did!
It's a good life lesson, because you realise how little you really need to be happy.
Then the trick is not to accidentally re-accumulate bits and bobs of this and that. I check regularly to keep this under control, though I have to confess that my work room does have rather a lot of things that can be used in art projects of different kinds...

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland -- Jul 24, 2012

It's me again. Complaining again.
Do I just have very bad eyesight or do other subscribers sometimes have to have a wild guess at what one of the validation words consists of?
One is always clear; the other is invariably practically indecipherable.
My last posting took three goes before I guessed right. I don't see the point, actually.






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