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Too much stuff!

May 21, 2013

Dear Artist,

Recently, Ed Kissane of Wantagh, New York wrote, "I'm constantly fighting a flood of paper that comes into my life. I have a bedroom and a studio and I try to keep the areas clear but it grows every day like a giant amoeba. I try to downsize but I'm losing. The piles of paper diminish my time at the easel. (Magazines, book reviews, etc.) There is always something to read and once again the creative moments lose out. Any suggestions?"

Thanks, Ed. Whenever I hear this one I think "avoidance system." I once knew a painter who subscribed to all the magazines, including ones in foreign languages he didn't understand. His wholesale subscriptions kept him easel-free for several decades. One day he thought he might paint, but it was too late. That night he subscribed to the big bundle in the sky.

For self-employed artists, desire needs to trump distraction. Even regular cheques in the mail shouldn't hinder an artist from his self-appointed rounds.

There's something else as well. Too many art magazines may be bad for you. It's great to keep informed of the latest trends in New York, London and Paris, but what about the trending of your own creativity? Too much awareness of what's out there can give an artist a dose of, "What's the use? If everybody else is so wonderful, what chance is there for little old me?"

How does one act against these common self-destructive tendencies? Taking into account that personal progress may have something to do with available talent or ego-drive, here are a few ideas:

Begin work before you're fully awake.
Name and claim your own creative processes.
Fall in love with your daily work habits.
Take time for creative novelty and exploration.
Teach yourself the arts of multitask and multi-track.
Alternate energetic activity with relaxation and calm.
Live in the work of your own making, not that of others.
Pencil in projects and set the unconscious mind turning.
Have your magazines delivered somewhere else.

The story of individual progress is largely one of moving from the business of being entertained to the business of entertaining yourself. Blessed are those whose main entertainment is their work.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?" (Henry James)

Esoterica: I'm laptopping you from Yu Yuan (Garden of Peace and Comfort) in Shanghai, China. Koi circle among the yellow and white lotus as a rhododendron drops petals, forming a miniature fleet that moves slowly away on the stillness of the pond. A green heron waits for my thoughts from a nearby rocky ledge, and I'm remembering a kiosk just outside the dragon wall hawking magazines and newspapers printed in Mandarin and Cantonese. Alone in this inner fragrance, I'm considering the nature of passion.





Step into the 21st century
by Pesach Ben Levi, Fayetteville, NY, USA


My suggestion is to step into the 21st century and get yourself an e-reader tablet. Change all of your Mama and baby<br>original logo design by Pesach Ben Levi Mama and baby
original logo design
subscriptions to digital. Throw out all the paper magazines and book reviews. There are two major benefits: First, it will help remove clutter and (and barriers) to your work. And second, it is a lot easier emotionally to 'delete' a digital issue than to physically throw out one in your hand!

"There is always something to read..." Of course! There are over 328,000 new books published in the US (UN 2010 estimate, Wikipedia). I have realized that if I manage to read a book a week, and live 20 more years (I'm in my sixties), then I only have about 1000 more books left to me. So I try to make them 'worth it.' Are all those magazines and book reviews 'worth it' to you?



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A dealer of stuff
by Lynn Walker, Wichita Falls, TX, USA


Once, a most admired artist sent me a postcard with the admonition to "Beware of Stuff" but, being Running in the waves<br>oil painting by Lynn Walker Running in the waves
oil painting
contrary by nature, I have instead become a dealer of "Stuff" and often wonder, as I wander, about the relative value of things... things are not encouraging for the unproven older working class stiff who has always been an artist dead or alive... regular cheques in the mail?... no don't think that would prove a hindrance... but of course I am not speaking from experience.



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One thing at a time
by Susan Cushing, Viroqua, WI, USA


I sincerely disagree with the points about learning to multitask and sending the magazines to another Fiske's Pasture in Early Spring <br>original painting by Susan Cushing Fiske's Pasture in Early Spring
original painting
address. In another time multitasking would be considered a form of insanity. The ideal of being focused, clear and able to find one's own creative voice cannot happen when a plethora of information is demanding attention every moment of every day.

Sending the paper to another address keeps the energetic connection pulling one back: "I have to go get that mail," "I have to read that huge pile of magazines that are now in that other mailbox," etc. Putting them at a distance but still owning them is pretending to be free of the investment.

Do one thing at a time. Breathe. That is the way out of the paper mess and all the other twisty places the current culture gets us into.



There is 1 comment for One thing at a time by Susan Cushing

From: Thérèse H. -- May 27, 2013

Thank you, Susan. Kudos to those who flourish amidst multitasking but you have opened another, calmer avenue. After reading your words, I breathed deeper than I have in ages!
Many thanks.


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Regular studio hours
by Cecelia Cox, Chattanooga, TN, USA


It’s not only magazines, but the Internet, which can be a deadly distraction. I'm treading that fine Vessels<br>original painting by Cecelia Cox Vessels
original painting
line (not always successfully) of trying to keep informed on what other artists are doing so that I can learn from and be inspired by their work, and a bad case of, "If everybody else is so wonderful, what chance is there for little old me?" as you so accurately termed it.

I've found that a routine is important. Regular studio hours. And as an introvert, I have to have that time alone to paint. I used to paint with others on a regular basis and, fortunately, several of them were quite wonderful artists who were very giving of their knowledge. There came a time when, to create my own true work, time alone in the studio (and lots of it) to "name and claim my own creative process" was what I had to do, to go to that next level.



There are 2 comments for Regular studio hours by Cecelia Cox

From: Jeanette -- May 23, 2013

Gorgeous painting!

From: Jackie Knott -- May 24, 2013

Beautifully done.


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Lazy slob at heart
by Catherine Stock, France


I subscribe to the notion that the more you do, the more you do. A few years back in New York, I filled Untitled<br>watercolour painting by Catherine Stock Untitled
watercolour painting
in for an art director on maternal leave, a full-time job, illustrated seven books, and took both French and Italian classes (with homework) once a week each. Now I am living full time in the French countryside with nothing to do but paint, and it's just amazing how much time I spent pottering in the garden, shopping, cooking, reading, taking the dogs for walks, etc. I thought work would be pouring off my easel but it's not. I have lots of excuses, but suspect that perhaps like water eventually finding it's true level, I am discovering that I am just a lazy slob at heart.



There are 3 comments for Lazy slob at heart by Catherine Stock

From: Jennifer Sparacino -- May 23, 2013

There's a saying I heard once: 'If you want something done, ask a busy mother". Under pressure, I think we naturally find our most efficient selves. Ironically, thanks to our stone age predecessors, 'laziness' is also an efficient form of survival. Don't beat yourself up, you're certainly not alone with this one.

From: Jeanette -- May 23, 2013

Catherine, the life you describe sounds pretty nice to me. There's nothing wrong with appreciating and enjoying all of the beauty in life.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- May 24, 2013

Isn't it the case that the irritation of a grain of sand in an oyster creates the pearl? A pearl of wisdom I heard long ago and it helped me develop some tolerance for the day to day stuff.


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Donating to the library
by Jean Kiegerl, Merritt, BC, Canada


I love art magazines too, but I found a way to keep them from taking all my time and shelf space - and even Waiting for Spring<br>oil painting by Jean Kiegerl Waiting for Spring
oil painting
save money by not impulsively buying single issues at full cover price. I made my art magazine addiction into a community project. I donate multi-year subscriptions (average of $100/year for five subscriptions) to the local public library via the local community arts council. This year we have two more magazines in the collection thanks to two excellent art galleries in the region.

Everybody wins! I get to select the magazines and get a charitable donation receipt for income tax. The community arts council promotes the project at its events and can add it to their credentials on grant applications. The public library budget barely covers general interest magazines, so they get good current art resources. Local artists here have easy access to even the most expensive art magazines to enrich our practice and maybe our clients broaden their artistic interests to match. The arts council is considering adding performing arts magazines to the project next. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to reach and enrich the community.

I still get to read the magazines but without constant temptation in front of me. Bonus - the library not only keeps track of them when they are borrowed, but stores them and dusts them too!



There are 2 comments for Donating to the library by Jean Kiegerl

From: judy lalingo -- May 23, 2013

Fabulous painting, Jean!

From: Catherine Stock -- May 24, 2013

Ditto above comment.


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Multitasking improves outcome
by Kate Jackson, Merced, CA, USA


When I'm not distracted by computer, household and outside obligations and projects, I still do sometimes Giant Sunflower<br>mixed media painting by Kate Jackson Giant Sunflower
mixed media painting
paint as part of a multitasking day. Since I began using alcohol inks with other inks on drum heads, I found the multitasking actually improves my outcome since I don't OVERpaint... I actually allow things to blend, dry and set, them come back to them and add what's needed instead of play play play, oops, overdone! This piece is done on two bass drum heads given me by the music store... "Do you think you could do something on these?" Giant Sunflower is actually done on two heads, one behind the other! It was so much fun, and felt so creative. I've done a few more on other sizes as well.



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Curious procrastinators
by Lynda Bass, Cambria, CA, USA


I loved this newsfeed. It may not be magazines for me, but it's shopping for art supplies, or reading all the manufacturers newsletters on how to use the myriad of mediums and tricks and magic bullets out there available to us curious procrastinators.

Well, it's all so true. Just Paint... is written over my desk and my work table, and whenever I feel a shopping trip coming on to get that latest tool to create "texture" I look at that sign... Sometimes it works, and sometimes the urge is just too strong and I relent and go buy that new fabulous video I just saw on painting the Rakuku beach or whatever it’s called over there in New Zealand.

Glad to see I'm not the only one.



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Struggle and ecstacy
by Olinda Everett, Matlock, Derbyshire, UK


Every work is the first. I guess I engage in a continuous experimentation - I am a potter - The Oriental Hand-Woven Carpet<br>mixed media by Olinda Everett The Oriental Hand-Woven Carpet
mixed media
and therefore the chances of being satisfied with the results are low. I am squeamish about 'clever tricks' and so the physical sense of regret is constantly part of my work. It takes a long time to go from concept to fired piece and while that is going on, I am learning and improving not just my techniques but my ability to SEE. Therefore it feels like struggle and ecstasy follow each other remorselessly.



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Jerry Markham workshops 4-Day Plein air workshop in the diverse Okanagan landscape (BC, 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>.
Jerry Markham workshops
4-Day Plein air workshop in the diverse Okanagan landscape (BC, 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 Anne Duke, Needles, CA, 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 June Rose of Bowling Green, KY, USA, who wrote, "Having lived in Hong Kong for many years, I have always been under the impression that everything printed in China is printed in Standard Beijing characters, but that readers throughout China and beyond China will read those publications and pronounce those characters according to their favored regional language."

And also Michele Caplan of Westchester, NY, USA, who wrote, "My hands and feet have turned Orange. I don't have jaundice according to my doctor and my blood tests. Any idea what chemical from my paint might have caused this? I often paint barefoot. Any help would be greatly appreciated."

(RG note) Thanks, Michele. Your problem probably has nothing to do with your art materials or your barefoot-painting habit. I spoke with a Chinese herbalist and it’s much more likely that you are taking in too much beta-Carotene via carrots, yams, sweet potatoes or pumpkins. I sincerely suggest you get a second opinion on this matter as orange feet and hands are not currently something that I cover.


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 Too much stuff!...

From: Cheryl Quist -- May 20, 2013

So many "good things" vie for my attention too... I try to protect my time to paint and leave enough time and energy to attend to other duties - difficult with chronic pain. To help myself, I ask the question "what would be the BEST use of my time/energy?" Sadly for the housework and paper pushing, I NEED to paint. Even if all I can do is 30 minutes in the studio, it's worth it!

From: Dee Poisson -- May 20, 2013

I agree, we all get out what we put in. Some of us want/need more out of it than other artists do. There are the seasons of life that take us to various things also. We do need time to fuel the juices and contemplate then go to the easel. I am often processing an idea in my head long before I put a brush to canvas and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I have a stack of magazines too and sometimes I read them but only if I remember to tuck one in my bag for when I have to sit in a waiting room.

From: John Ferrie -- May 20, 2013

I heard once that the best way to get more creative is to get OFF THE INTERNET! We see all these posers at artisan coffee houses in their hipster glasses and headphones, wired into their computers doing incredibly important computer work and surfing. Maybe because I am dyslexic and never really cared for reading, but I rarely buy publications. I don't subscribe to booklets, articles or newspapers. I don't want people to send me proposals, nor will I read more than a paragraph of an article someone sends me.
What defines me is being an artist. And while it is important to see as much work, good, bad, famous or indifferent, the best thing to do is work. It has taken me 51 years to accept, but we artists are given a gift. There is something inside of us that we have to communicate through our work. It is a lifelong study and a voyage riddled with rejections and advice from people who claim to no better. There can also be incredible highs and moments where it all seems worthwhile.
But to be ruled by cluttered papers and endless collections of readings that must be gotten to, can turn a career as an artist to that of just a hobby.
John Ferrie

From: Bluehorsedancer -- May 20, 2013

Your advice always comes exactly when I need it. Thank you.

From: Lynne Hurd Bryant -- May 20, 2013

Paper is clutter and I fight clutter as much as I can. Clutter is anything that forms a rat's nest and it breeds depression freely. I have the luxury of living in a town so small, we are not eligible for home mail delivery. When I go to pick up my mail, I toss anything I don't need in the circular file before I live the post office. To further sort this out, I have all my bills come to my email box. This sorts out the art stuff from the random stuff. I only subscribe to one magazine in my medium. I have stopped, at least for a while, buying any books or subscribing to any more magazines so that I can hear my own creative voice.

I'm still working a day job that requires a great deal of concentration. I don't try to paint on days I am working the other, less interesting job and I don't paint past 3 p.m. the night before I have to go to that job. I have chances at over time, but I tend to refuse if I'm hard at painting because I don't want to mix my two work "lives" because it causes mind clutter.

Magazines, books, online articles, blogs, etc. may improve your artwork, but in the end, the best way to improve your work is by doing as much of it as you can. If you are lacking direction for a piece or in general, if you are finding that painting bores you and you procrastinate getting down to business, that is the time to peruse your books and magazines to refresh your passion, then put them away and get down to work.

From: Mary Jane Q Cross -- May 21, 2013

3 years ago I cancelled my several magazine subscriptions and just let them run out. The very reason stated , "whats the use everyone is so good etc " was a silent distraction. My work and public career has benefited by being more focused, and my life perhaps more dull (I don't do much else) but the work is flourishing wonderfully, and the knowledge of creating quietly is nourishing. The other big distraction is people in the industry , gallery owners, Art organizations, juries, and friends telling you constantly what to paint, what might sell, what they want to or think they can sell.
I do take criticism from a fellow artist who I respect and trust. The nature of being a creative personality is more solitary than corporate. Too many artists, organizations, clubs etc articles vieing for their own $$$ agenda is like trying to herd a bunch of cats. When cats are pretty solitary.

From: ReneW -- May 21, 2013

Magazines are just temporary stuff, Robert. They don't do anything in my life but take up space and time. So with that said I restrict those kinds of things to late in the evening before bedtime. If I find something of value to me I tear that out and put in a binder. The remains of the magazine goes in the recycle bin. Time spent is generally less than an hour and it does not interfere with my creative time. Sometimes, but not often, I get some inspiration from temporary literature.

From: Dwight -- May 21, 2013

In spite of all the unnecessary printed nonsense, the massive internet and this letter's critiques, I must say that besides art, the basis of our civilization is still black type on white paper.

From: Jackie Knott -- May 21, 2013

I was the person who kept forty years of National Geographic and Smithsonian. One day I realized I never went back to read or look at them. If there is one blessing of the computer age it is that those articles can be accessed from magazine Internet archives.
Rather than keep the whole magazine if there was one article that was particularly worthwhile I tore it out and kept it in a file. Eventually I quit even that. I keep magazines (four subscriptions and none are art magazines) only until the next month issue arrives. I dislike adding to landfills but at least paper breaks down faster than any other trash I generate. Regardless of quality magazines are not great literature worthy of a book; they are periodicals. As such it is easier to consider them destined for the trash can.
Time is a whole other issue. One can get totally bogged down in trying to keep current in the art market. Magazines are great for advance notice of shows and competitions but don't get too caught up in it. I will occasionally pick up one at a gallery or the newstand. Read the articles and absorb the images, learn from them, and toss them. How is keeping any of that helping me paint? It isn't.
Those who fight the paperwork battle usually never had a plan to deal with it in the first place. I can't praise a home office enough. Every piece of correspondence has its appointed place with a system for timely management. I learned this way back in the Air Force: "Handle each piece of paper one time." After the bill is paid, file it for one month then toss it when the new one comes in.
And something else that frees up my time ... that's hubby's job and he does it much better than I ever did.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- May 21, 2013

You rang a lot of bells today!

From: Carole Mayne -- May 21, 2013

I just returned from a trip to a lovely location, with a desire to reorganize my studio. Your words are timely for me to clean up my act, discard magazines, and visual clutter. HOWEVER, your beautiful description of where you are writing from in Shanghai sent me floating right by your side! That paragraph made my day and reminded me of all the motivation available when you are looking at your life from a new and beautiful perspective, one that speaks to your soul. Thank you.

From: Jackie Knott -- May 21, 2013

By the way, if you can't bring yourself to throw your magazines away pull off your address label and take them to your local hospital waiting rooms. You just might kindle a spark of interest in art that someone might not have cultivated.

From: con christeson -- May 21, 2013

As an artist who has multiple practices [studio/community/public/education], I have discovered the value of showing up. I am writing a memoir that re-searches all of these things that may be valuable for the field of arts-based community development. I work at my studio on the laptop on MWF from 7-9ish. On the advice of a mentor, I show up and just write, I limit my expectations of output, I stop at 9 and start again at 7 on the next writing day. I don't listen to the voices that say 'who are you to be doing this?' or 'others have already said/done/finished this'.
I am amazed at how freeing this is....I don't feel guilty, I do feel productive. I have been doing it almost a year and probably have another year to go before editors, publishers etc., but it's happening! It's no longer about I might or I could or I should.
I had a contractor once who helped me build a house. He said, "If you go to work every day, eventually you get done." Thanks, Don. Your words have meaning and purpose to me. You are the voice of the muse.

From: Erica Hawkes -- May 21, 2013

The story of individual progress is largely one of moving from the business of being entertained to the business of entertaining yourself. Blessed are those whose main entertainment is their work.

Lived without TV for 7 years didn't miss a minute!

From: Anik Charron -- May 21, 2013

Chinese newspapers are not "printed in Mandarin and Cantonese" inasmuch as the Chinese writing is the same for all spoken
Chinese, which is the beauty of traveling through China if you know how to write it and find yourself in a region where one of the multiple dialects is spoken and you don't know it. Write what you want in Chinese, and it will always be understood. I even have Chinese and Japanese friends who at times resort to writing a concept to better understand it, as Japanese has borrowed many Chinese characters and still uses them for more abstract concepts.

From: Dan Young -- May 21, 2013

I would like to add:

Do not read or check email/facebook in the morning, set aside a specific time to read your magazines, after working at the easel, or when you hit a "lack of energy" wall.
I find that I can spend 1-2 hrs in the morning on the computer and loose any desire to go to the studio.

From: Newton JoRene -- May 21, 2013

I only take one art publication now and do take time to explore my own ideas.
I am reviewing all of my old sketchbooks and finding ways to reinvent those images!It is great fun as well as rewarding.

From: Dottie Zimmer -- May 21, 2013

Mr Ed Kissane and I must have the same problem. I know what I would like to paint, but there always seems to be something else I have to do. Thank you for your suggestions. I will try to make them work for me

From: Deborah Conn -- May 21, 2013

Maybe applicable to writing, as well?

From: Enid Baker -- May 21, 2013

I've managed to relegate my magazines to the bathroom; but I find the internet terribly consuming. I think I've become addicted.

From: Lynn Arbor -- May 21, 2013

Esoterica: Could traveling far and wide be an avoidance tactic for a famous painter? Could seeing the world be the equal to reading too many art magazines? Just wondering.

From: Norman Ridenour -- May 21, 2013

Poverty drove me to cancel subscriptions. At times I have thought, OK just one! No news of the art world except exhibits we can actually see. However the paper still piles up, but I can say most of it is for teaching & marketing.

Live in the work of your own making, not that of others.

Does this mean that I need to toss out my Goya, Picasso & Rivera????? If so, the price of success is too high.

From: Judi Stack -- May 21, 2013

I just helped a 93 year old woman move into assisted living. It was my job to shred all of the mail and get rid of all of the magazines and catalogs. It took me about 30 hours. Now I throw out the junk mail at my house every day.

From: Georgeana Ireland -- May 21, 2013

My adult daughter informed me that I was a paper hoarder. "You have paper every where - you always have" she told me. I am always busy painting but "someday" I will get to it.
Now with my daughter words ringing in my head I am trashing away... I still keep the good stuff though but hopefully the stack will get smaller and smaller....

From: Julie Eliason -- May 21, 2013

Wonderful inspiring email letters like yours are my avoidance. All day I've been trying to get everything done so I could play with some mineral spirits and oil pastels, my latest passion. But now it's time to go to bed. Tomorrow I will start with oil pastels. My IPAD will have to wait in it's rightful slot on my priority list. Thanks for waking me up before another day goes by.

From: Xu Wang -- May 21, 2013

In Chongqing we can not get Wikipedia or Facebook, but we can get Painter Keys site. Thankyou for letting us see possibilities. China still poor country but getting better (too much working) so we will painting soon I think.

From: Laura Molloy -- May 22, 2013

Another drop of clarity and sense from you (as well as another atmosphere rendered in just a few words). I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy and appreciate your letters, and how they challenge me and inspire my progress.

With my sincere thanks for your wisdom and humour (and love to your Airedale, Dorothy!).

From: Vicky Fletcher -- May 22, 2013

Oh you’ve struck such a chord here, you’ve been looking in my studio window! ... I’m going to save your thoughts below and make them my mantra ....

I really enjoy your newsletters, thank you for making them available to the wider world, even here on the beautiful wild West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

From: Sue Bernon -- May 22, 2013

This was a very helpful letter. I battle with myself in a way I can t really describe. I observe other artists' work is a reflection of themselves and I cringe at my own efforts of failure or perhaps not seeing myself in my work. My upbringing was of a strict nature, and there was a definite right or wrong, and being a people pleaser all my life, it is difficult to switch that button off. I have often just created, and not knowing where its going, I do ceramics as well as oil-painting. I paint impressionistic and I enjoy being free and un-comformed. There are certain rules, for sure, and am listening to others.

From: Sally Dean Mello -- May 22, 2013

My daily ritual is to paint a playing card sized watercolor of something I am grateful for. I make a frothy espresso and sit at the same little table in my kitchen. I focus on whatever is current and positive.

Even on my busiest days I get my little dose of meditative painting. I post in on my blog (and I am very grateful for the ease of my Iphone and the cloud!)

I am going to 365! I am very grateful for your wonderful words of inspiration.

From: Frances Topping -- May 22, 2013

Does this include reading your offerings? Paperwork, magazines and half finished paintings mount up. Emails are another time consumer. Wanting to keep information is my downfall. I also think not being so ambitious sometimes works since I have so many things I want to do that I feel I don’t get much done but others think me industrious. Life is too short and other people are important too. Enjoy your meditative moments.

From: Gail Caduff-Nash -- May 22, 2013

Many good thoughts there, and true, except the one about learning to multi-task & multi-track -
this instinctively seems wrong, as multitasking IS how we end up trying to read everything, do everything, create everything, with nothing actually getting done much besides possibly reorganizing all the task lists.

I think that your readership is probably largely women, and women are automatic multi-taskers who really need to learn more focus, the way guys do. Telling us to multi-task is not going to help us. We need to UNmulti-task.

Starting work on something before we're fully awake, is a good one. I've done this (not enough) and find that I can really immerse myself in a project much better that way. It's also true at the other end of the day after all other things are done, that I can focus better on one thing.

Multi-tasking is more of the avoidance thing in spades. Attempting to accomplish everything at once.
Put on a pot of stew, load the washer, check the emails, feed the critter, clean the brushes, make a call while washing dishes and brushes, and maybe oh maybe sit down and actually paint something for an hour!

Oh, wait, I didn't set the still-life up yet. Can't paint a thing or the flower bouquet I was going to paint is 3 days old and needs freshening up. Or, durn, the light is fading, need to wait til tomorrow. Stir the stew, load in dryer, walk the critter, answer the phone?

C'est la vie!

From: Kim Rody -- May 22, 2013

It's not art magazines for me. I WISH!!! It is stacks and stacks and endless stacks of erroneous bills (call the phone company to have them remove extra charges), car title registrations to fill out, gallery inventories to log, prospect list to call on, deposits to log in Quickbooks, call to Quickbooks to get QB online functioning, write and send out the newsletter with new paintings, call around to find new power steering pump that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, send updates to webmaster, take pictures of the new mini dishes for the website.... it goes on and on.

These are things that really HAVE to be done, and I don't know how to avoid them. I have tried pomodoros, todoist, nozbe.... these help, but it seems in this "paperless" society there is about triple the amount of paper to work through. Where can I find a secretary??? I tried a few, but they ended up pushing the paper around on their desk.

What to do?

From: John Koehler -- May 22, 2013

I am packing right now to go help a friend in a difficult spot of their life. I fully understand why the Impressionists wanted to find a place of seclusion, but "no person is a island". To paint about life you have to live it.

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine -- May 23, 2013

For Michele Kaplan: Further to Bob's advice about the high beta-carotene causing orange skin, FYI sometimes beta-carotene levels become high due to lack of thyroid hormone which is needed to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A and this can be true even if your levels test out as being high enough for reasons to complicated to explain here . . . a natural health practitioner may be able to help you with that.

From: Bob McCormick -- May 24, 2013

Just finished reading "Identical Twins," and it resonates on several levels. In the interest of space, I'll focus on one idea: I've been tossing around the idea of getting some giclees made. Will I make any money? Is it worth the bother? Will it increase the value of the originals? What are your thoughts? Thanks. B

From: Xian Han Shze -- May 24, 2013

Could I come today to Canad with you? Nice place I think and I work hard and join in your country.

From: Pat in NM -- May 24, 2013

For Cecelia Cox... I love to do still life. the more realistic the better. I am often told... if you wanted THAT why didn't you just take a picture of it... Do you ever hear that too.

From: Kay Christopher -- May 24, 2013

Got rid of all my magazine subscriptions years ago and do not miss them. There is plenty to read without them, and they no longer clutter my space.

From: Susi Franco -- May 26, 2013

I've found there is a particular rhythm to creativity in my life; some days I may paint 10 hours in a row and forget to eat, other days I may be reading about painting, the Masters or Pre-Raphaelites, new substrates etc, but always feeding the 'art side' of my brain. I've learned that reading Rumi each morning helps set the tone for my painting work day, as does listening to Classical & some New Age music, they soothe without distracting. I also often unplug the phone, esp when working on something with more detail. My work is a very focused, meditative zone I climb into, and all the circumstances must be as Zen as possible. I learned YEARS ago not to look at email or catalogues etc until I've finished painting for the day. The best practice is to create the comfort of rituals for your painting time, these help solidify your painting discipline. Having a deadline for a client or publisher helps alot, too! :) When I get to feeling fatigued and start making bad decisions in the work or feel exasperated, I know it's quitting time, time for a glass of wine and supper and World News Tonight. :) Next day, I "see" the work fresh and start again. It works well for me and I'm grateful for that. Biggest barrier to my getting work done: phone calls from family-friends who don't always grasp it is my work that pays the bills, think that painting is a 'hobby', despite my making a living from it. *sigh*

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki -- May 27, 2013

Oh gosh…it’s been ages since I have subscribed to any art magazines. That’s been eliminated as a time waster and upsetter together with lot of other similar stuff…and I still can’t achieve 40% of your list:

Begin work before you're fully awake.
I have to drive car to the office before I am fully awake.

Fall in love with your daily work habits.
Most of the unloved daily habits unfortunately have no solutions yet.

Alternate energetic activity with relaxation and calm.
This can happen only on weekends.

Live in the work of your own making, not that of others.
What can I say…salt on the wound.

What’s bugging me now is that attempts to learn something new throws me off with my regular painting, with effect that appear as avoidance, although I know it can’t be it. Immersing yourself in a learning process is a truly worthwhile activity. The problem is that immediately after, my regular process feels broken. I feel like a cave man trying to figure out how to paint with a stick. It takes a long and frustrating time period to absorb knowledge and as I am getting older this seems to be getting worse.

From: Elle Fagan -- May 27, 2013

A friend of my Fathers gave me some of her copies of "American Artist" magazine, many years ago. Old and wise, she took the dramatic mental moment, to make sure that the gift was pure - and we laughed. It is classic to give a copy of your pro magazines to someone when you are about to skip it and actually get some work done.

I am "Green" - get most of my pro reading online. But even they tend to pile up, so I adopt the "Half-lives" system for it - and unsubscribe or gift on HALF of what is crowding the box and TA DAHHHHH my life and its good works reappears, just like magic.

Your friend with piles of hard copy magazines should have fun with it: buy a shredder, shred them and make the shreddings into sculpture! Some really real good from all that subscription money. I am told that's what the stock brokers are doing to their pro manuals after endless years of economy issues - no pun intended. Therapy, to make with the hands.

There was a Famous Smothers Brothers song that sang about professions - all read their pro news/journals - funny.

Yesterday was my 39th birthday again - and I got a new studio and classes from life just in time for the day. Lucky me. Having fun.

From: Lynn Edwards -- May 27, 2013

Currently the only art magazine I subscribe to covers business issues for artists. I find to be very helpful so I will continue with it. As for art books, I can't imagine life without them. They feed my imagination, inspire me and are a rich source of information for me. I consider them essential for continually expanding my knowledge base. Far from leading me to imitate the work of other artists, they serve as springboards to experimentation in the studio and my ongoing self development. Browsing through them while curled up in my comfy easy chair is something I very much look forward to at the end of the day. Give up my beloved art books? No way!!!

From: Katrin Smith -- May 28, 2013

While I read all your weekly letters, this one really hit home for me. I am that person who is always reading art magazines (subscribe to 4 mags), always ordering new books on art, always searching Pinterest for inspiring art etc etc etc. instead of JUST MAKING MY ART.

So I've completely reframed my studio work ethic. I am now in my studio working hard on a schedule that has me clocking in well in excess of 40 hours/week, not answering phones, not checking email until after 3 pm & just focused on creating art with no distractions.

I will let you know how this is works out for me in a couple of months or so !

From: Diane Voyentzie -- Jun 02, 2013

Last May I was in the quiet beautiful garden with my husband. We were there the minute it opened… The sun was shining through the walls and the Urn and Vase openings, casting shadows of long ago ghosts… We were almost alone in the garden except for the workers… It was almost like a religious feeling.. and it was somewhere that I had wanted to visit for many years.. Enjoy your wonderful time in that special place… Also, be sure to visit the tea house next to it. The lovely lady will make you your own tea!






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