The Painter's Keys Community For Artists

Search the Painter's Keys:

« Photographic perfection

· previous clickback ·

The two-easel convention »

· next clickback ·

Join the world's largest art community and get the twice-weekly art letter.
Subscription is free.

Absolutely free, no strings. You'll get the valuable twice-weekly letter and be joining the world's most active art community.

Robert's worldwide gift that artists love to get.



Is silence golden?

August 13, 2013

Dear Artist,

After my recent letter about talking on the phone while painting, several emails came in from folks mentioning possible pathological conditions. Anonymous wrote, "When I've been painting for long periods in the studio, especially when I'm really concentrating on a project, I find that I have trouble speaking at the end of the day. Hesitation and pronunciation make it like I'm translating from another language. I get that 'deer in the headlights' feeling and clam up. My wife says all I need is to go out and get socialized."

This painter is 38 years old and has no significant health issues. When I was younger, I suffered from post-painting bamboozlement as well. At the time, I loftily described it as "atrophy of the verbal faculty during non-verbal work." I even disclosed my self-diagnosis to my psych prof. He told me to stop thinking and stick to painting.

My condition faded with the adoption of telephone chat and listening to the radio. A primitive form of Karaoke helped too. Also, as my painting confidence grew, my methods moved toward a more relaxed state of intuitive automatism, bringing about a parallel fantasy life. In my contacts with seasoned painters, they often report great thoughts, great inventions and great conversations quietly verbalized during painting. In other words, they talk to themselves.

Absorbing as art-making may be, it seems the most evolved artists are what I hesitantly call, "balanced." Whether introverted or extroverted, these folks have enriched lives studded with interests and passions beyond the brush. Human relationships are high on the list. Artists need to guard against losing those other faculties that truly define our humanity.

"Silence," said Lao Tzu, "is a source of great strength." It is in silence that we steadily learn the language of art. "It is not the inert silence of a stone," said Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, "but creative silence." Having sat near the Maharishi a few times I noticed that his lips moved--even in meditation. He may have been doing a quiet Karaoke to himself, but I have the feeling he was inventing a more gentle world that had no borders.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say." (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

Esoterica: The Indian mystic, Meher Baba (1894-1969), was voluntarily mute between 1929 and the end of his life.  <br>Meher Baba in 1925, the year he began his lifelong silence

Meher Baba in 1925, the year he began his lifelong silence
He communicated by means of an alphabet board and various hand signals. Secluded and often fasting, he held public gatherings and engaged in works of charity with lepers, the poor and the mentally ill while building a worldwide spiritual empire. His passionate followers would argue otherwise, but it appeared the longer he remained mute, the less sense came out of him. We speaking animals need to keep speaking. As in the techniques of painting, it's another case of "use it or lose it."





Left brain, right brain; different functions
by Eve Bennett, Leicester, UK


Being a comfortable speaker in public I looked forward to sharing my work and views on painting by<br>Brain functions
Brain functions
doing a demonstration. I set up my easel, canvas and paints and placed the model. I started with a short preamble explaining my set-up process and then turned to my canvas. I was puzzled as I tried to continue for I couldn't talk and paint simultaneously. I tried many times to explain what my thought process was as I made choices of color or decisions of brush strokes or how to see relationships. But each time I became mute or stumbled on my words. If I stopped and spoke, I had to be very "detached" from the canvas as if it was distinctly apart from me. It was only then that I was able to be lucid.

The chart below explains my inability to speak and paint at the same time. I paint in a thoughtful and immediate manner and try to stay away from a "slick, stylized approach." Therefore, I am processing in a fresh way with each brushstroke. We paint with our right brain and have verbal skills with our left brain. That explains, for me, why I found it impossible to paint and speak with reason at the same time.



There are 4 comments for Left brain, right brain; different functions by Eve Bennett

From: Virginia Hanley -- Aug 15, 2013

Exactly what Betty Edwards said in her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I have found it to be so true.

From: Anonymous -- Aug 16, 2013

I agree, and experience the same phenomenon.

From: Hugo -- Aug 16, 2013

When I had just moved to oil, a Russian abstractionist at Art Central insisted I should write down my process. Could not do it and produce anything. Then I rigged up a recorder to talk while I was sketching. Same non-result. Sometime later I talked to Paul Van Ginkel and he had some good words: It's your job to paint, it's the viewers job to respond and analyse. It set me free to just create.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 16, 2013

For what it is worth, I believe that Spiritual is what the left brain calls the right brain. I think the right brain remembers everything and stores it all in a specialized way, involving colors, textures etc. I won't go on except to say that I think that God lives in the Corpus Collosum, and occurs when the two sides of the brain are in perfect communication. When all is working correctly, we become our highest self.


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


It could be the stuff in the air
by Kathryn Ikeda, Lafayette, CA, USA


As a neurologist cum painter, please be sure that you have adequate ventilation or a filter to remove Rooster<br>original painting by Kathryn Ikeda Rooster
original painting
the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) from your studio and be careful of heavy metal exposure. There are problems that solvents and other toxins can produce in short order and definitely cause chronic problems over the long term. In Whistler's time it was referred to as the "artist's malady."



There is 1 comment for It could be the stuff in the air by Kathryn Ikeda

From: Kathy Kaser-Nichols -- Aug 16, 2013

Love this handsome rooster and his attitude!


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


'You have to talk to yourself'
by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA


Some time ago I used to watch Bill Alexander on PBS, a program called "The Magic of Oil Painting." In his Flash Flood<br>oil painting<br>36 x 48 inches by Warren Criswell Flash Flood
oil painting
36 x 48 inches
German accent Bill always said, "You have to talk to yourself!" To this day I find myself instructing myself while painting, as if the one talking is instructing the one painting. It's a form of imaginary socializing sometimes, when I imagine a whole class is there in my studio and I'm the teacher.

"Now we put the glaze over this whole area... like this... good... and now we wipe it down like this...

"But you see, the composition is wrong. The coins and the moon should form a parabola... So we put a bird here-- Not there, you idiot!..."

And like that, along with a healthy mixture of expletives. I never say anything about "happy little trees," but I must confess that at the end of a painting session I sometimes say, "Thank you for watching me!"



There are 7 comments for 'You have to talk to yourself' by Warren Criswell

From: Marguerite Christy -- Aug 16, 2013

I found your post akin to.what I have done at times in the past, but I cannot deny that when I read "happy little trees" -- an obvious nod to the PBS demo-ing painter Bob Ross who even in death is still instructing away in reruns -- I laughed out loud as it brought back many years ago of looking forward to his show when I lived so far out in the middle of no where, first purposely with no TV and then with one that only received PBS. Now, 35+ years later with too much TV, too many distractions, and a far more urban life, I could scream at my work and no one would notice. But if I jump mediums from my now favorite of pen and ink to watercolor or acrylic, and I start on a landscape, you bet I talk to those happy little trees!

From: Wes Giesbrecht -- Aug 16, 2013

I clearly remember Bill Alexander painting 'happy little birds' (gulls over a seascape) long before I ever heard of Bob Ross.

From: Jill Paris Rody -- Aug 16, 2013

Your painting is such a delight! I love this sort of play on words, illustrated for the world to 'read' your sense of humor! Thanks for sharing!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 16, 2013

What a wonderful idea/painting! Is he carrying his Superman Cape?!!

From: Warren Criswell -- Aug 16, 2013

Yes, Susan. Apparently it didn't do the job.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 17, 2013

Ha ha!

From: Angelika Ouellette -- Aug 19, 2013

Your comments, your painting, the responses...I actually laughed out loud and mumbled to myself how much I love Robert's letters and all my fellow painters/ artists. So grateful. Love your painting. :)


Website Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Intense right and left brain work separately
by Kay Wolfe, Minneapolis, MN, USA


After a long painting session of keen concentration, I also seem to lose words. I think after so much Teapot<br>original painting by Kay Wolfe Teapot
original painting
intense "right brain" use, it is hard to switch back to "left brain." I cannot talk or carry on a conversation while painting—I need to stop and then speak. I am surprised that you can! Whenever I have taken the phone with me into the studio, I end up just listening to the other person, and only responding when I stop painting. I have noticed my painting instructor doing the same thing when doing a demo—he stops talking while he is painting. I also stop talking when driving the car—if I have a passenger--when I am maneuvering through tricky situations. I thought all of this was natural—that we cannot do intense right and left brain work at the same time.



There is 1 comment for Intense right and left brain work separately by Kay Wolfe

From: Jeanette -- Aug 16, 2013

Beautiful painting! The teapot is exquisite!


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Revealing one's soul
by Stephan Chmilnitzky, Canada


When I was in my early twenties and was painting full time I slipped into deep periods of inner Watched<br>digital painting by Stephan Chmilnitzky Watched
digital painting
concentration lasting for months at a time. I found myself living in an inner world of creation and endless possibilities. Speaking became a problem but more than that was my failure as a husband and father. Somehow my life's difficulties resolved themselves but not for any better or productive reasons. It was the early seventies when art in Canada was at its all time low. A major gallery exhibited empty frames... (What the hell, I felt shame for the art world that would allow this to happen!) I was so taken aback that I walked away from the art world and for many years I could not deal with this festering wound. It took me years to be reintroduced to the world of creation and, like before, my ability to speak and socialize is being hampered. The ability to live in both worlds is a talent and may be a reason why those who teach often find their work suffers.

I have also found that there is a type of painter who paints from images taken by a camera. They are often very good copyists and will copy photos in every detail... they fear adding or omitting and submit themselves to this creation process. The ability to lay paint in a convincing way does not make an artist--but to reveal one's soul does. We must be free to paint outside the lines.



Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Tapping into 'Source Energy'
by Redenta Soprano, USA


Robert Bateman, the wildlife painter, said many years ago in the days before cell phones that he did some Cactus<br>watercolour painting by Redenta Soprano Cactus
watercolour painting
of his best work in the morning while talking on the telephone.

Over time, I too have found that talking on the phone, or even listening to books on tape, ties up the left or critical part of my brain so the right brain is free to do what it does best--be creative. However, I find that when I need my left brain to compose, work through a problem or measure anything, I can't deal at all with music or voice in the background. As in everything, staying balanced is the key. Too much distraction, or talking, can be a deterrent to creativity and after a period of time even an interesting discussion or book on tape can be wearisome.

Plumbing the pools of silence is truly the way to tap into 'Source Energy,' the wellspring of all creativity.



There are 3 comments for Tapping into 'Source Energy' by Redenta Soprano

From: Michael McDevitt -- Aug 15, 2013

Nice illustration.

From: Marguerite Christy -- Aug 16, 2013

Best watercolor rendition of a cactus I've seen lately -- and I live among them in the Northern outer Phoenix sprawl.

From: Kris -- Aug 16, 2013

Beautiful work! Exquisite! You can get lost in the folds and spines of this cactus for hours, as tho wandering another planet. Awesome work!


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Going with the flow
by Carol Reynolds, Honolulu, HI, USA


What a relief to find out that many artists talk to themselves while painting! When I speak out Heads or tails<br>oil painting by Carol Reynolds Heads or tails
oil painting
loud the problem-solving ideas can be very beneficial for quality work. A lot of my paintings tell a little story like the one here where both the live rainbow lorikeet and the ceramic kingfisher egg cup are eyeing the unsuspecting caterpillar; therefore, talking out loud to the painting seems natural to me.

At other times I need complete silence to concentrate on a difficult painting or to render intricate details in an area and I will not even have music playing then. I can be full of contradictions where this subject of silence is concerned. I go with the flow and by what the painting dictates is necessary.



Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Joy of music linked to joy of paint
by Jennie Rosenbaum, Springvale, Australia


I'm always wired into my phone when I paint. It's my music box and my way to take notes without hands, Kokobiel<br>oil painting<br>36 x 48 inches by Jennie Rosenbaum Kokobiel
oil painting
36 x 48 inches
or message my husband when I need a cool drink. But I resent it. I hate being contactable and I usually set it to 'do not disturb' so that I don't have to field calls and texts.

Silence for me is not golden. I need my music; it's an integral part of my artwork. I sing incessantly and that singing is what produces my zone state that allows my lizard brain to paint! The joy of music is intrinsically linked to the joy of the paint on canvas for me. Afterwards I will either be quietly lost in my work trying to work something out or I won't be able to shut up. But whichever way I go I will be speaking in snippets and half sentences. Used to speaking to myself, I figure I know exactly what I'm on about. Anything I say may be punctuated by songs.



Website Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Art as language
by Jesi Barron, Victoria, BC, Canada


When my family came here to Victoria in 1947 I was thirteen. There was about a handful of artists. Maria<br>original painting by Jesi Barron Maria
original painting
Victoria Inner Harbour, Parliament Buildings<br>tempera and acrylic on board<br>by Sid Barron
Victoria Inner Harbour, Parliament Buildings
tempera and acrylic on board
by Sid Barron
Ina Utoff, old Mr. Menalows. Emily Carr had died. Coming from Montreal where I was privileged to go to Arthur Lismer's school of art at the Montreal Museums, it was a shock .Now there are millions professing to be artists. I have painted all my life. Painting is a language to me as I am left-handed and dreadfully dyslexic. Computers have also been a great help to me. The ruler was used a great deal when I was young to try and make me write with my right hand. My first language was French. Maria spoke only French to my sister and me. She looked after us for 11 years. Believe me, those were treacherous years for me. I have always been very grateful to have known Sid Barron and was married to Him for thirty years. Great artist and human being. That is how and why art is my language. I have also put up a website here.



There are 7 comments for Art as language by Jesi Barron

From: Susan Avishai -- Aug 16, 2013

I studied with Arthur Lismer too when I was a kid in Montreal. Wasn't he wonderful? He never seemed to lose the infectious enthusiasm and curiosity most of us shed as adults. My favourite memory was when he told me, "Don't paint the apple; paint the red."

From: Anonymous -- Aug 16, 2013

Jesi I've watched you paint - you're a superb artist.

From: Anonymous -- Aug 16, 2013

Hi Jesi;Good to see your name and think of you,glad you are still painting.My favourite of all time was your painting of the apple tree in your back yard in winter.Bonnie

From: Anonymous -- Aug 16, 2013

Thank you Bonnie

From: Anonymous -- Aug 16, 2013

Thank you Susan but was returned . Will try again later . Yes those were the best times painting and making things at the Museum........jesi

From: Anonymous -- Aug 17, 2013

thank you for sharing a bit of you history, Jesi. your talent shines through all your plien air paintings, it is joyful to watch you create! Terri

From: Anna Schuring -- Aug 17, 2013

Your art is worth all the praise. Your sister Anna


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Albert Handell workshops Held in Lubec, Maine, USA.   <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>.
Albert Handell workshops
Held in Lubec, Maine, USA.

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 Peter Heineman, Conifer, CO, USA



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 Lynette Hayes of the USA, who wrote, "I've worried I was developing artist's senility! The words seem to stop at the gates of my lips, and the mental fatigue, especially after plein air painting in the heat is like nothing else!"

And also Jackie Lee of Sonoma, CA, USA, who wrote, "I also have found that I lose control of my voice box during protracted painting sessions. At times I have to check to see if I'm breathing, too. My immediate solution was to invite a friend to come and paint with me a couple of times a week. I selected one who has the same affliction, although we space it out so that one of us is always cognizant at any given time."


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 Is silence golden?...

From: Rick Rotante -- Aug 12, 2013

Most of us are frightened of silence. We get lose in mind wanderings. It’s a western phenomenon. Silence to us is akin to being alone. We shun silence out of fear. To be one with yourself you need silence. It goes hand in hand with my belief of Yin Yang. Too much of anything is bad. Noise for instance. If there were no spaces (silences) in our life, we would accomplish every little of worth. Superficial things don’t take much thought, so noise can be tolerated. When exploring your inner self, noise is a distraction and cannot be tolerated. At least if you expect to understand what you are learning. There are countless studies that show we are not hard wired to multitask. For those who still believe this is true in this fast paces world, I have startling news for you. YOU CAN’T! It has been proven that our brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. I won’t go into the physics here and bore everyone.
Silence is golden is not just a phrase. It’s a way to live; a way to see into our soul. It gives you a time to regroup; to put aside the “noises” in our life and focus. Art gives me the silence I need, not only to create, but also to put things right if only temporarily.
Balance in life is essential. There is time for noise but there needs to also be times for silence.

From: Susan G Holland -- Aug 12, 2013

What a subject! Wow.
Silence is my friend, but, like good friends, it doesn't impose itself on me. So, imposing silence upon myself isn't a nice thing to do...but I do choose silence so I can hear the music of the painting process..the scratching sound, the wipings of brushes, clinks of glass jars, the easel, my feet on the floor. It's music, not silence. Myself humming. Myself cussing the paint that got on the rug. The wind outside. Or nothing. Or Bach.

I do not like interruptions. Even interruptions of silence imposing itself on me. It can be the death of a painting if it comes just when a new surge of solutions are appearing.

But do I listen to see if I am talking while I am painting? NO NO NO...I am painting, not monitoring the silence!! Do I think I will die if someone comes to the door? NO NO NO, this is part of the music. I'm painting now, I tell them nicely. They will come back. Good.

Concentrating on such things as "emptying the mind" or "studying the breathing" is good for me, but it is not something I want interrupting my painting.

From: K. Ann Price -- Aug 12, 2013

There may be some truth to the "use it or lose it" of speech, at least for a handful of us. In the one year between two different cognitives tests that I took, I had 3 semesters of design and art classes, and a lot of studio time. The second test showed a marked improvement in my visual processing skills, and the development of both expressive language and verbal memory deficits. Seems my right brain robbed from my left to get better.
Given, I'm both autistic and suffer from an extremely rare form of migraines, so my problems are likely unique to me. However, I wouldn't trade the joy of my creativity for anything.

From: TH -- Aug 13, 2013

I had no problem getting as much silence as I needed until my husband retired, since then I've readjusted my working hours to spend a little time with him, and we've got family randomly calling in now and then - as a result, I crave silence at times, or at least the knowledge that a certain part of the day will be uninterrupted.

It's hard to tell people to be quiet or not call in, and although it's taken a long while, they all seem to be a bit more understanding.

As a result, the hours after 6pm and until 2-3am are my most peaceful & productive hours for work. Not ideal, but a compromise.
I can do other work related things such as photography/editing, varnishing etc earlier in the day.

Because I'm just clearing up and going to bed after working for a long stretch, I don't need to talk with anyone apart from saying goodnight to the dogs.

While I'm working, I'll now and then take a break for a few minutes to answer an email or read one, watch a bit of TV news etc. I can even have the TV news on while working because my brain seems to tune into it only when it's not in deep concentration.
I suppose it all keeps the verbal side of my brain active even if silent :)

From: ReneW -- Aug 13, 2013

Interesting topic, Robert. After reading your article I thought to myself; is silence a right or left brain activity? I tend to think it is a right brain activity. When I am in that zone, i.e. painting, silence is golden. But I can break away and socialize with no problem. My main annoyance is noise, like lawn mowers, jet planes, Television, road noise, roofing a house, etc.

From: misspeggyartist -- Aug 13, 2013

Is Silence Golden ~ this all sounds familiar - I have often zoned out while creating and when interrupted people think I'm being rude because I can't respond immediately or the way they think I should respond - I try to brush it off as "I'm working" but I know they don't understand . . .
another thing I've noticed - I get distracted by the words themselves sometimes in conversation - I "picture" the words in my inner vision, which leads to a delay in response. Anyone else experience this ? I know another creative person who says they 'see days of the week' in color . . .

From: Debbie -- Aug 13, 2013

thinking about silence--there is never complete silence----taking away all of the things that make noise in our home, there is a quietness,,,
everything seems to make a noise,,,sometimes very loud and harsh,,

In my case, working on a project, painting or sewing or cleaning house, doing dishes,working in the yard ,tending gardens,there is a quietness within me,,a calmness, focusing on the project at hand,,no worries about anything else,,worries of life disappear,,,

I live in the woods,,going outside early in the morning is SO quiet,,you hear only the soft sounds of nature, as I right this I see a pair of doves just flew by the window,,So I must go, out (yes the coffee pot is beeping,,)

Happy quiet day to all !!

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 13, 2013

Some of us require silence as a result of noise trauma; it is not a matter of preference. Consider this post a public service warning - you have no idea how a hearing disorder can impact your life, health, and work. Concerts, plays, radio, church, movies, sports, and hiking are an impossibility since then. Subsequent loud noise has literally knocked me to the ground. A simple trip to the grocers or dinner in a restaurant require noise canceling headphones.
Please, turn down the volume of music in your car, iPods, and house to protect your hearing and balance; they're precious.
Everything I do must be done in silence, including painting.

From: Susan Avishai -- Aug 13, 2013

In response to Miss PeggyArtist: I see numbers and letters in colour too, even letters of an alphabet in a different language (I speak Hebrew). It's called Synesthesia. We synesthetics don't talk about it too much because of the tendency of others to see us as total nut jobs (I sometimes assign gender and age to letters, others can smell or hear letters...), and it doesn't much affect my life except to make it a bit more colourful. The only drawback was when I was assigned my current phone number from Rogers and the colours really clashed. ;-)

From: Patty Cucman -- Aug 13, 2013

In February I got a case of laryngitis and lost my voice completely for almost two weeks. No sounds came from my mouth - not even when I sneezed. I gradually got a voice back but not my own. I sounded more like Ida Lupino; not that that is bad but this is not my voice.

Here it is August, I still sound more like Ida than the old (or six-months-younger) me. Use it or lose it is so true but the more I use it the less there is and eventually I begin to sound less like Ida and more like Bob Dylan. Now that is scary. Someone told me to practice my mi, mi, mi's. Sounds too selfish. Perhaps in my case silence is golden.

From: Naomi McLean -- Aug 13, 2013

I heard that when speaking one uses the left side of the brain and when painting one uses the right side. So it is difficult to change between the two when doing both simultaneously. I’ve noticed this particularly when artists are demonstrating a painting technique and trying to verbalize about it. The talk gradually declines, fades off and dies.

From: Ookie Meissner -- Aug 13, 2013

When I was teaching drawing to small children age 5 to 7, I became aware of the fact that the most and dedicated children hummed to themselves -otherwise you could have heard a pin drop -no chats or any other noise making for a session about 20 minutes long - I found it intriguing -becoming much more self conscious, my older students just drew -and the ones who did make themselves noticed, were the ones with focusing issues -Hmmmmm?!

From: Gwen Meyer -- Aug 13, 2013

I have had the same issue with talking after painting...a full weekend of painting, and I think clearly in concepts but cannot say a straight sentence. I'm firmly convinced that my speech center is in a different part of my brain than my painting center! As I've gotten older, I've integrated the two better by improving my speaking abilities in general...

From: Susan Magnusson -- Aug 13, 2013

I ward off 'transient artistic aphasia' by listening to TED talks (ted.com) while I paint. I can choose subject matter that suits my mood without the not-necessarily-welcome emotional impact of music ... or the risk of making strokes in three-quarter time. TED talks seem to keep the verbal part of my brain intact while letting the visual brain focus on the art at hand.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt -- Aug 13, 2013

In some instances silence is golden. Humans are social beings so we need to have connection and support system in our daily life. When I am painting I can work alone especially when I am in the process of working out or thinking of my composition and colors to incorporate to best present the total composite of my painting. At this stage I like to concentrate so distractions are not welcome because I could lose my train of thought. Once I have laid out my plan I can entertain some socializing. I would not totally ignore a phone call or conversation with my family and friends. I can work alone and I also enjoy working with my open studio group. We exchange ideas and discuss the trends in art. I think to have a balance of work and time for socializing is important in promoting art. Going extreme in the pursuit of silence makes us unbalanced. Perhaps it may even be pathological. Some people call it eccentricity and some may even have greatness by having it.

From: Mandy Hague -- Aug 13, 2013

I was incredibly relieved to read about the artist who had trouble communicating after long periods of painting. I have the same condition but since I am a full-time painter I thought I was developing dementia! (It does run in the family.) Perhaps I’m normal after all.

From: Gins Doolittle -- Aug 13, 2013

The whole of this letter carried a consistent YOGI humanity about your message which you made up for us, for whom you care and console with your compassion; always setting yourself up as the if "the joke is really on you" who is as guilty as all of us of these idiosyncrasies.

Brilliant endearing tone throughout.

From: Marilyn Juda-Orlandi -- Aug 13, 2013

It's a perfectly normal phenomena.....happens to me all the time. It's because you're using the right side of your brain when you are creating art. The right side is non verbal. When you have to switch back to the left side which is the verbal side, it take a little time. Don't worry about it. Its a good sign that you are really creating.
There is a book that came out many years ago and has become a classic, that explains it all, "Drawing on the right side of the brain" by Betty Edwards.

From: Maidie Rutherford -- Aug 13, 2013

It’s your right brain vs. left brain. If you are too right-brained, you will have a weak left brain, and then be tongue-tied. It’s “scientific!”.

From: Jackie Lee -- Aug 13, 2013

I also have found that I lose control of my voice box during protracted painting sessions. At times I have to check to see if I am breathing too. My immediate solution was to invite a friend to come and paint with me a couple of times a week. I selected one who has the same affliction, although we space it out so that one of us is always cognizant at any given time. Works fine for us.

From: John Koehler -- Aug 13, 2013

I find my self going long periods of painting [2 or 3 hours] then lots of talking to any one near me, about small trivial things. I guess we are truly group animals.

From: Desire -- Aug 13, 2013

Massaging the exact center of your scull will help regain balance between your right brain and left brain activity. If you notice a bump or a slight valley on top of your head, double the massaging time. Your goal is a perfectly smooth scull top and flawless capability to balance your checkbook while painting.

From: Giovanni Becka -- Aug 13, 2013

Dear Mr. Robert. I'd like to thank you very much for your very nice letters, I really appreciate them. Not far but, 2-3 days ago I was listening to my radio in my studio. There was a nice song "Silence is Golden ,but I can still see", and I just wrote it down in my book.
Today i just open my email and I got the question from you. Is silence golden? Yes it is :) I don't have much time to write more,, I'm sorry, but in the future I hope I'll have something .

From: Luke Fitzgerald -- Aug 13, 2013

We need to concede that noise pollution has cluttered our lives. There are now few places of habitation where the internal combustion engine cannot be heard. This is a relatively new phenomenon when you consider that the automobile is barely 120 years old. What did the ancients have to hear but the calls of nature, including the human voice, the chopping of wood and an occasional lutenist who came by to sooth them?

From: William Waite -- Aug 13, 2013

After reading your letter I turned off the radio. It was lovely.

From: Padmaja -- Aug 13, 2013

As an artist, my conversations with what I create happen only in silence. Life is general is noisy and chaotic and I feel silence is golden at such times, but sound is golden for those that can not hear, that yearn to know how the sound of a chirping bird is like. So I will learn to appreciate all the sounds that are around me even when they are chaotic.

From: Phil Kendall -- Aug 14, 2013

146,000 vehicles pass within 100 metres daily my tinnitus fills in the gaps. I have music to listen to while I paint, time and noise pass effortlessly...and a painting evolves. The silence of the countryside and Greek Island tranquility terrifies me! Then hearing aids & my increasing deafness are both a bane and a pleasure!

From: Katharine E. Robinson -- Aug 14, 2013

Nice quotes about silence. As my niece would say "what are you contributing to the world" might be a thought for some before speaking! A painter friend once explained to me the reason one may have difficulty communicating and painting at the same time is that different brain halves are used for each activity. I believe the more practice one has bouncing back and forth the better one might be at combining the two, but still think there is a reason artists have studios where they can retreat from the general loquacious population!

Mountain tops might also work!

From: Glen Hargrove -- Aug 15, 2013

Silence surely does seem to be golden at times ...and at other times even the most horrible clatter goes by unnoticed. While this seems to be a contradiction, it may be simply a clash of two different mental processes. The Brainologists claim that we conduct the business of artistic creation somewhere in the right side of the brain ...cognizance of form, aesthetic qualities, and such, while we do our math homework and processes language over in the left side.

The artist you mentioned, who, after working at his palate for a time finds it difficult to process spoken language, seems to hint that tasks that absorb our attention in one mode of brain function allow the other side time to idle about and doze off from sheer neglect. Could an artist's right brain, accustomed to sensing correct composition, proportions, lighting, shading and such, operate entirely independently of the word grinding left brain that grinds out sentences and numbers? Can it be that we can so lose ourselves at one single task, some mode of operating that uses a single portion of the brain, that when we suddenly begin tasks using the other portion, it takes a brief re-orientation before it realizes that it's on duty and "kicks in."

...and can this work the other way? Does the guy who puzzles over written works or ciphers numbers for long periods of time become so accustomed to using the left brain that, when it is suddenly time to switch over to a task that requires the right brain's creative, aesthetic mode, it seems, for a moment unfamiliar and daunting? Could the left portion of the gray matter, that interprets spoken words, function entirely separately from the creative right half of the head with neither particularly interfering with the other?

While probably an over-simplification, I wonder if this could explain why we can manage artistic work while talking or listening to language and still become irritated by other types of sounds or noise that intrude on the work of the right brain in its artistic mode. If any of your readers are Brainologists at their day job, perhaps we could call on them for some help with all this?

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 16, 2013

I have found that when you talk to yourself, you meet a better class of people.

From: Carol Reynolds -- Aug 16, 2013

This is in response to Susan Kellogg's delightful comment. I must be really classy, Susan. Thank you for easing the pain of my admitting to talking to myself ! I truly find that thinking out loud while painting can improve the work at hand. It clarifies your thinking; you are not having random and cluttered stuff swishing through your brain interfering with good judgment.





BOOK OF THE TWICE-WEEKLY LETTERS--10 YEARS OF MORE THAN A THOUSAND UNABRIDGED LETTERS

$35.00(USD or CAD) plus $10.00 shipping in North America, or $20.00 to anywhere else in the World.

TWL Letters
  • To purchase with a credit card or PayPal, please choose your location from the list below and click 'Buy Online'.

  • |
  • To purchase by check/money order, please make payment to 'Robert Genn' and mail to The Painter's Keys, 12711 Beckett Rd., Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 2W9

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.

To correspond regarding your book order, please write: sarah@saraphina.com


Robert's worldwide gift that artists love to get.

Absolutely free, no strings. Cancel at any time.
You'll get the valuable twice-weekly letter only.
Your email address will not be lent, sold or put
on any spam or other nasty list. Guaranteed.
CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE FREE

Last modified: Apr, 24, 2014