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Two artists

November 2, 2012

Dear Artist,

Because this is a bit personal, I'm not using their real names. They're both about 40 years old.

"Jack" got a BFA and then an MFA from a Midwestern University. He's visited many of the major contemporary art museums and follows the work of several "important" contemporary painters. He's written articles on Philip Guston and others. He subscribes to several art magazines and is "the most knowledgeable art-guy in any discussion." After university he worked for a while in a commercial art gallery. He sometimes writes me long, well-informed letters. He's painted eleven large paintings (two unfinished) since leaving school. He's not represented by any gallery. He thinks you need to move to New York and "get lucky" with a dealer who "really represents you."

"Jill" took two years of art school and then quit. She pays little attention to other artists. She subscribes to no art magazines but has taken several workshops. Her hobbies include bowling and travelling. At one time she also worked in a commercial art gallery. On two or three occasions she's written to me. She's painted "approximately two thousand paintings" since leaving school. She's represented by four commercial galleries in four, well-separated mid-sized cities.

There's a great story in David Bayles and Ted Orland's Art and Fear . Here it is:

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the "quantity" of the work they produced, all those on the right solely on its "quality." His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work in the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B" and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot--albeit a perfect one--to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busy turning out piles of work--and learning from their mistakes--the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work." (David Bayles and Ted Orland)

Esoterica: Both subscribers Jack and Jill are thoughtful and enthusiastic artists. Art is central to their lives. And while success and "being able to function as a full time artist" may not be important to some of us, their current situations are quite different. Jack rents an apartment and makes $2150 per month (plus tips and benefits) as an airport porter. Jill works daily in her converted garage in a home she now owns. These days she's averaging $18,000 per month. She has "no benefits."

FREE BOOK! During the month of November 2012 we're mailing a free copy of "The Painter's Keys--A Seminar with Robert Genn" to subscribers who copy Twice-Weekly Letter material to their sites, publications or blogs, give credit and link to us. Yep, the book's free. No kidding. The first hundred will receive an autographed copy. All you need to do is use the material of your choice, link to us, and then send us your mailing address. We'll do the rest.





Make a lot of mistakes
by Bruce Miller, Stanwood, MI, USA


When I was in high school art the instructor exposed us to The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides. The main take-home message that I had lost until reminded by your Two Artists letter was... "Unfortunately most students, whether through their own fault or the fault of their instructors, seem to be dreadfully afraid of making technical mistakes. You should understand that these mistakes are unavoidable. The sooner you make your first five thousand mistakes, the sooner you will be able to correct them."

So back to basics for me.



There is 1 comment for Make a lot of mistakes by Bruce Miller

From: Anonymous -- Nov 06, 2012

Ill-advised hi tech companies penalize software designers and reward testers by the number of found errors. That's the time for testers to start buying expensive cars, and time for designers to find a wiser employer.


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Just paint 500 paintings
by Bob Pike, High River, AB, Canada


My mentor, Stan Perrot, used to critique our work quite extensively at the Alberta College of Art Untitled<br>mixed media by Bob Pike Untitled
mixed media
and Design. (Sadly he's gone now.) After 2.5 years of art school, I was kicked out for missing some classes (I was working nights to survive), but Stan became a good friend after art school and we would occasionally have a few beers and talk about art. One evening after a few, he told me I was old enough to know the truth and he proceeded to tell me the critiques he gave in art school were a pile of bull dooey. He said the only goal he ever had was to get each student to go home and paint another painting. Then he added, "After 500 paintings, you're an artist." It made sense to me.

I went on to become a potter, and Pike Studios, over 40 years, has used over 300,000 pounds of clay.



There are 2 comments for Just paint 500 paintings by Bob Pike

From: Patricia Solem -- Nov 06, 2012

Stan Perrot is alive and well and painting fabulous watercolors in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. He is an inspiration to watercolor painters here.

From: Nancy Osadchuk -- Nov 06, 2012

The Stan (Stanford) Perrot , 1917 - 2001, referred to in Bob's letter was instrumental in getting the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to make the art department separate ...ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design) He was a fabulous teacher.


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The golden secret
by Mary Aslin, Laguna Beach, CA, USA


You can talk about painting or you can paint. Both are interesting and fun. Talking about painting Leeward shores, Windward dreams<br>pastel painting by Mary Aslin Leeward shores, Windward dreams
pastel painting
does not make a person a better painter, but painting does. Somehow our psyche can be tricked into thinking we are actually accomplishing the work of painting by talking or writing about it. (I know mine can.) C.W. Mundy said about the life of an artist, "It's one thing to launch a career as an artist. It's another thing to sustain it." I am rather stunned by the lifelong hard work and commitment it takes to be an artist, and to continue to be worthy of the title. I come to this reckoning even in light of the fact that I must paint to breathe.

Further, I often think of Kyle Thomas's suggestion when I have both high and low moments in my chosen beloved profession (perhaps it's something that should be presented to BFA/MFA students...).

"Five things you should do after you finish a painting.

1) paint another piece

2) paint another one

3) and another

4) repeat step 1

5) repeat this for the rest of your life"



There are 7 comments for The golden secret by Mary Aslin

From: Jim van Geet -- Nov 05, 2012

Love your work. Great feeling.

From: Todd Bonita -- Nov 06, 2012

Hahaaaa, that's great!...I love your five things to do after you finish a painting. Let me add a sixth if I may, " Paint another"...

From: Iola Benton -- Nov 06, 2012

Wonderful painting and excellent name... The atmosphere is exquisite. Congratulations!

From: Anonymous -- Nov 06, 2012

...if I could only finish the darn painting...

From: Rick Rotante -- Nov 08, 2012

Mary- As a work of art your piece is top notch. As a pastel- it is stellar. Thanks for sharing.

From: Richard Mazzarino -- Nov 08, 2012

I can't help but see the influences of Sorolla in your work. Wonderful piece!

From: Victoria on Okinawa -- Nov 12, 2012

To Anonymous: if you haven't finished one then maybe it is time to let that one go and paint something else you could finish.


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Art and Fear in perspective
by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA


There's a lot of truth, both inspiring and painful, in Bayles' and Orland's book, but picking out The Open Road<br>oil painting by Warren Criswell The Open Road
oil painting
that paragraph may not be fair to either Jack or Jill. Both of their approaches can result in great art or worthless crap. It sounds like you're evaluating their work by how much money they're making at it. Vincent Van Gogh was a failure financially and Thomas Kincade made a fortune. Herman Melville wrote only one great book, which did not sell well, and he was almost completely forgotten when he died. Fill in your own best-selling writers. It's really hard to make general rules for artists, since every artist is different and art is all about breaking rules--sometimes to our success, sometimes to our ruin. B & O talk about lawyers and plumbers knowing the rules, and how they do not, like us, "have to spin the work out of themselves, discover its laws, and then present themselves turned inside out to the public gaze." Jack will no doubt fall down and break his crown, but Jill may come tumbling after.

"We do not long remember those artists who followed the rules more diligently than anyone else." (David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear , p. 95)



There is 1 comment for Art and Fear in perspective by Warren Criswell

From: Don -- Nov 06, 2012

If you ask any of those artists if they would've liked to have been more financially secure during their lifetimes, I'm sure most would've taken that option.....which makes you wonder what they might have created without the constant stress of needing money.


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A remedy for 'stuckism'
by Sue Hoppe, Port Elizabeth, South Africa


Having run a community art centre for three years and being constantly in the firing line and trying Tree of life<br>mixed media painting by Sue Hoppe Tree of life
mixed media painting
to form a bridge between academics and contemporary/conceptual artists, hobby artists (Sunday Painters, an expression used by the academics with the requisite scorn in the voice) and professionals like Jill who just get on with it and paint and sell without too much concern for the derision poured on them behind their backs by the first group, I went through a lot of questioning about my own place in the art world. After all, although I fall into the Jill category, I had heard all the scorn, and began to question my direction.

The discussion with the friend and your letter have both confirmed the decision I took, which was to withdraw from the gallery and get back in my studio in reclusive mode, doing my own thing happily. Today my Facebook update on "Stuckism" gives me the idea that I am not alone in feeling all the scorn, pretension and criticism of the contemporary art world might be a form of the old idea that "Those who can, do and those who can't, teach"... Okay, it is a generalization, but it is nice to come across an entire art movement dedicated to just getting on with it and producing worthwhile artworks that are not just about novelty and witticism. And the lovely tongue in cheek manifesto highlights that we don't really need to worry about labels and isms at all, just get on and do what we do best... Paint!



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Does an artist seek a muse?
by Judith Sanders-Wood, Ridgefield, WA, USA


What helps you and inspires you in your daily work? Is it a person? Music? Place? I know that for me Mine<br>acrylic painting by Judith Sanders-Wood Mine
acrylic painting
it is having a person like my husband who is greatly supportive. Sometimes I get in the mood with music or when I am traveling a place. I like taking an "Artist Walk" and meditating on my surroundings to cleanse my spirit and mind. I also find going to workshops and continuing with classes, interacting with fellow artists is also inspirational. What is your artistic muse?

(RG note) Thanks, Judith. All of the above. Thanks for the reminder. A dog is good too, and helps with the artist's walk. I think also, for a lot of artists who have been at it a while, working becomes both a habit and a need. Because of this need we tend automatically to get going—and we don't feel so hot when we don't. A good day of work gives a good night's sleep. Work and well-being are codependent in more ways than one.



There are 2 comments for Does an artist seek a muse? by Judith Sanders-Wood

From: Bridget Syms -- Nov 06, 2012

This is a good subject to explore further, I think I was someone's muse many years ago, today my muse is a whippet.

From: allan dunfield -- Nov 06, 2012

a muse can as easy as the need to paint. my canvas is my rabbit hole


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Difficult to budge
by Joy Preiss, South Africa


I find the content of your letter "Two Artists" very thought provoking and also very true. I teach adolescent boys, some of whom are particularly neurotic about getting things "right" and who, in the process, lose all the joy of art making and make contrived, safe work. The more spontaneous, brave students are the ones who take risks and who produce exciting, original "off the wall" artworks which engage the viewer and which lead to more and more exciting art being made. It is always my hope that they will effuse the other students with a new energetic risky attitude, however it seems that individuals create according to their personalities and conditioning, for it is here where they feel safest (especially teenage boys!). I make a huge effort to create a safe place for the perfectionists to take risks and to make use of mistakes. I know, however, that the peer pressure at this age is so huge in their lives that they rarely are able to break out. I also believe that the fact that work is being done for assessment purposes is a great inhibiting factor in the minds of high school children, and it is my greatest wish that they would get past their concern of, "Is it for marks?"

In your experience, do you find that one's personalities, upbringing and past conditioning largely affect the type of Art one does, and also one's attitude to the making of Art? And do you think, as one matures, one is able to change?

(RG note) Thanks, Joy. This is one of those superb questions that sometimes gets me prowling around at night. Yes, just as there are tabby-cats and marmalades, personality, upbringing and past conditioning have a major effect on the artist, his art, and his realization of progress or defeat. I've also observed that some breeds have a much more difficult time evolving and becoming competent. And, from knowing hundreds of artists, both fat cats and kittens, I've noticed that some leopards do change their spots.



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Valuable letters
by Katrina Weber, Huntsville, AL, USA


You have kept me company for many years now – I looked back at my saved quotes, and the first one is 1941<br>oil painting by Katrina Weber 1941
oil painting
from June of 2005. I have been a silent reader – have composed many letters to you in my head as I went about my daily business; but I'm always way behind on "getting things done," and there are always so many others who write to you, that I have never got around to it.

I prize your letters – they are a wonderful mix of practical advice, endearingly rambling philosophizing, and wondrous wit. Always, what shines through is that you are an authentic person and a true artist who loves doing what you do. I am very drawn to your art, and I also enjoy your skill with the pen. I have also gone to the websites of artists who have responded in the clickbacks, when I am attracted to the example art you show, and have discovered several excellent artists whose work I check on from time to time with great pleasure (also silently).

I watch my budget pretty carefully, so the opportunity to receive one of your books by doing something attractive brought me out of my silence. I have long had a link to your Painter's Keys on my "links" page, but this morning my web guru husband added a quote to my bio page as well. I don't know if we were fast enough to win an autographed copy – I hope so! But I am already excited about getting the book.

Thank you for what you do, for who you are, and for your generosity. My husband and I have become way too cynical these last few years, and in addition to providing much stimulation for my art, your voice has reliably soothed and bolstered me, reminding me that there are indeed good people in this world!

(RG note) Thanks, Katrina. The reason we're offering this free book is that we think there are still artists out there who might profit from the letters and other features of the Painter's Keys site. We've found that the best way to do this is to ask current subscribers to copy what they might think are valuable letters to their own sites, blogs, etc, and to permanently put up one of the little link logos available for downloading from our site.

For subscribers who would like to have the free book and do not have websites, blogs, or other appropriate connections, we ask that they send us the names and email addresses of eight creative or art-interested people so we can start sending them the free Twice-Weekly letters. You will need to check with your eight friends to see that they are willing to receive it and that they are not already receiving it. Please send your list to this address and we'll see that they get subscribed right away and, with your mailing address, we will mail your book right away as well. Incidentally, I've decided to sign all the books we're gifting at this time. On Sunday it was raining all day and I signed 270 of them.

If you already have the Painter's Keys book, or don't want it, but would still like to encourage others to subscribe to the free Twice-Weekly letter, please consider putting up our little link logo on your own site or blog. The connectivity will actually bring more visitors to your site as well.
If you already have the Painter's Keys book, or don't want it, but would still like to encourage others to subscribe to the free Twice-Weekly letter, please consider putting up our little link logo on your own site or blog. The connectivity will actually bring more visitors to your site as well.































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There is 1 comment for Valuable letters by Katrina Weber

From: Mike Barr -- Nov 05, 2012

Many of us will echo the sentiments of Katrina - Tuesdays and Fridays can't come quick enough sometimes. At times we forget about Tuesdays and Fridays and the letter arrives as a delightful suprise.
I have a Painters Keys book that I have read and highlighted points throughout. I keep the book in a special place that I see most days and dip into it, just to read the yellow highlights. It is a gift indeed.
cheers
Mike


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Gerald Brommer workshops Held in Boise, Idaho, 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>.
Gerald Brommer workshops
Held in Boise, Idaho, 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 Joseph Marmo, NC, 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 Linda Leonard Hughes of Livermore Falls, ME, USA, who wrote, "$2,100.00 and $18,000.00 is a very big difference."

And also Lillian Kennedy of Boulder, CO, USA, who wrote, "Jack and Jill went up the hill, but only one got water."

And also Marie Lyon of Summerside, PEI, Canada, who wrote, "I have been using the word 'ideate' for many years and have read that one thinks better in a horizontal position because of more blood going to the brain. PERFECT! A great excuse for having 'awake' naps. My family sees me in a horizontal position and says, 'She's ideating.' I think it works."


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 Two artists...

From: Gail Caduff-Nash -- Nov 01, 2012

I like this contrast between two painters. It is similar to one I read once comparing Leonardo da Vinci & Michelangelo, respectively. Leonardo studied with the best and worked very very slowly and diligently, and often had to waylay work in art to do some plumbing for his benefactor (boss) (or strategize a new weapon or create some theater prop), while Michelangelo was 24/7 into his art and worked quickly, getting more jobs, btw.

I like to read about artists and their struggles. It's always great to see someone succeed so brilliantly - monetarily - as your 2nd example does. And not hard to see why, really. She just decided to do it and does it. She has a strong vision of what she wants and apparently it is what others want also. You didn't mention what kind of work she pumps out - 100's of cute kitten pictures? Dozens of great landscapes? Nudes? Not that it matters.

But your other example wants to put a lot of thought into each thing he does. Possibly overthinking it. Possibly with less gutzpah. Or possibly creating masterpieces. The Last Supper took 12 years.

Other artists, including myself, might do both things. I used to pump out a lot of work, doing 2 or 3 things at a time, and using any kind of materials I could find as canvas. Now I'm more meticulous, trying new things, always learning from the last stroke. I like a lot of my previous work - it was more spontaneous. But I've created some good stuff now, too. I used to have more gutzpah and care less if something was marketable. And it wasn't always very marketable. But it taught me to paint in a hurry. Se la vie.

You can be over-schooled in art to a point where you lose the ability to jump in feet first. On the other hand, learning how someone else does things is good also.

From: John Ferrie -- Nov 01, 2012

Dear Robert,
The BULK of any good artists work is done AFTER any schooling. I have been at dozens of pseudo-intellectual artists exhibitions and while there were epic and incomprehensible statements about the works, at the end of the day, it all seemed so half-assed. And while many artists who have dropped out of their second year of schooling SHOULD return to finish their studies, there is a fine line between the two. I graduated from art school in 1988, yup, count em, 1988! And while having studied, it has given me a leg up, I knew than as I know now, I still have acres and acres of canvases ahead of me. Travel seems to have a far greater influence on an artist than sitting in a class room gluing coloured pieces of paper into a collage. Then again, there are those rare instructors, who haven't lost their enthusiasm by teaching just to keep they're ailing career as an artist alive, to actually guide a young artist.
While I don't think that being an intellect will guarantee quality work, nor do I think a lack of education will only produce a quantity of works. The key, and it takes a life time, it to find the delicate balance between the two.
John Ferrie

From: Faith -- Nov 01, 2012

For the benefit of readers lacking an English language nursery background, here's the whole rhyme:

"Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after."

("crown" means head here; a "pail" is a bucket)

We actually used to sing it to a rather pretty tune.

I don't want to draw parallels with the contents of this letter, though I could.....

From: Katie Hoffman -- Nov 02, 2012

I fear I may be missing the point. I take the point of Bayles & Orland's production story as to the progression of our growth as artists, but is our monthly income truly the measure of our worth as artists or human beings?

From: Laura Devin -- Nov 02, 2012

THANK YOU! I am forever saying something like this to my students. By the way, I teach kindergarten- 8th graders in public school in a small town in Maine. You would not believe how many of my students are discouraged when they cannot immediately draw like da Vinci- or - their favorite manga artist. It takes all my ingenuity to convince them that they have to try again and again and then...yet again! I get 40 minutes once a week with them. I jump for joy and am thrilled to pieces when one of them comes in and tells me or shows me work they have been doing at home. The ones who draw at home on their own are the ones that make progress. Everyone else has art experiences and I make sure they get a good foundation of those...but it is the ones who are working every day on their own who make progress.

From: NoName Steaks -- Nov 02, 2012

Note to Faith:
The "nursery rhyme" was actually written as a political sarcasm at the time. "Crown" referred to a "crown", and today might indicate the "presidential seal". Nothing changes, but that it all remains the same. The only variations are the names.

From: Brigitte Nowak -- Nov 02, 2012

Weighing pots, daily paintings, the "10,000 hour rule": in order to excel, one must practise, practise, practise. That, combined with a curious mind and a well-developed aesthetic sense may lead to success, however one chooses to define it.

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges -- Nov 02, 2012

This is the theory behind my "Rule" #5 - "Knowledge doesn't Guarantee Results!" Knowledge and education is good and has a purpose but it's the application of the knowledge that teaches us what it takes to become great.

From: Donna Dickson -- Nov 02, 2012

Reminds me of Charles Hawthorne's approach " If you look into the past of the successful painter you will find square miles of canvas behind him". Practice practice practice and learn to see! Donna Dickson San Miguel de Allende, Mex.

From: Patty Cucman -- Nov 02, 2012

Reminds me of something else you once told me. "You can't be a boxer by going to the match. You have to get into the ring"

From: Marvin Humphrey -- Nov 02, 2012

A guy spends years in higher education, then applies for a job. The potential employer says "Sure. You can start by sweeping out the back room". Guy asserts: "But I'm a college graduate!" Boss replies, "Oh, OK. In that case, I'll show you how".

From: Helen Utsal -- Nov 02, 2012

Hi Robert, I love reading your newsletter, and am impressed with your ability to continue to discover new relevant things to talk about!
I have linked your site to mine in hopes of winning a copy of your book!
please check out my site at helenutsal.ca
sincerely,
Helen Utsal

From: RR -- Nov 02, 2012

Money aside, I'd really like to have a chat with Jack and Jill to find out what kind of people they are and what they contribute to the art world. Jill probably doesn't have time for chats with riff raff. I'd probably like Jack better.

From: Julia -- Nov 02, 2012

Thank you -this is the most inspiring letter i needed to read! Lets paint - despite all difficulties, lets paint, create, produce -after all this is what we are up to. In the meantime we need to survive and not all will make 18K a month but lets paint! This is all that matter! One day there will be profit and recognition, but only based on the work we actually will create! Keep working - i say to myself and all of us! We are creators!

From: ReneW -- Nov 02, 2012

Those who can, do...those who can't, teach. This is probably true in almost every profession. Also, beyond academic training there is so much more to learn about life and how to make a living. With that said some make good choices with their career and others do not. I know of two exceptional artists who have pursued art as a career and have done extremely well. However, one got a degree in Civil Engineering and the other in Architecture. I just don't think getting a fine arts degree is all that necessary if you want to pursue art as a career. Establish your credentials, put on workshops, demonstrations, win contests, sell your art, become well known, etc. there is a snowball effect if you work the system...otherwise look for a different career. I don't mean to be harsh but life is what it is.

From: Janice Carter -- Nov 02, 2012

So happy for Jill -- I "produce," but just do not "promote" -- Small town, little chance to show and don't' know where to begin. I certainly hope I've learned from mistakes and I'll keep producing as I just love painting -- happier with some than others! and I do try to spot obvious mistakes and learn from them.

Thanks for your frequent letters -- You have good advice and I miss them when I fail to get some (my new computer was putting some in the "junk" file, but I put a stop to that very quickly when I finally realized what was happening!

From: Luc Poitras -- Nov 03, 2012

This reminds me of the passage in your book, "In Praise of Painting", when your old friend said, "Don't be stupid, Bob, just go back painting." (Or words to that effect.)

From: Rick Rotante -- Nov 03, 2012

Volume is what works if you want to improve. Making work every day improves your ability to be ready for when those moments of creativity and inspiration happen. To be good at anything you have to show up and put in the time. This isn't a guarantee of success, but it is better than hoping or wishing you get better. Procrastination is the principle thing that will hold you back. Paint every day no matter what activity you have to do that day. It is not important to make finished pieces, it is important to exercise your eye, hand and mind coordination. Discipline your mind for work, practice your technique and reinforce this repetition. These are some the things I believe one needs to make "great art".

From: Mel Malinowski -- Nov 03, 2012

"LESS THINK. MORE DO....."

From: Maureen Brouillette -- Nov 03, 2012

I read Art & Fear many years ago and have been teaching that lesson in my private classes for a long time. Although a basic level of skill is necessary to express what you want to say, degrees and other credentials seem pretty meaningless to me. Unfortunately, that is not always so in the more "sophisticated" art world. Academia and social connections rule. That is nothing new. I personally know too many academic types who can talk a good game but who couldn't make a piece of art if their life depended on it. And they are the gate keepers. Sigh.

From: Sharon Knettell -- Nov 03, 2012

First of all, who made the judgment as to what pots were best? I have seen painting shows judged by unqualified hacks. Sometimes the judges are politicians or company CEO's. Sometimes the judges are mired in the past or looking for only cutting edge goods. How talented were the pot-makers in group A or B. Were they equally talented or was there a ringer in the winning group?

Rarely is competent work done without years of preparation and hard won skills - unless you are painting in mid-20th century to early 21st century style when quality is considered an embarrassment. I do believe an MFA student at Columbia (or was it Yale?) referred to it as de-skilling.

Just how many Vermeer's are extant? There are other painters that produce very little and make exquisite jewels of work that may take them a year or more and painters that turn out paintings as if they are rolls of paper towels- (I was going to say toilet paper but I assume I am in polite company).

As to the piling on of degrees - it can be a costly excess and may not lead to headline status at the vaunted NY galleries. A month ago- in an effort to sell my Abiquiu Deluxe easel (I am getting a biggie Hughes) I emailed two groups of art professors in my home state of Rhode Island, one at the Rhode Island School of Design and the other at the much more humble and less noted Rhode Island College. They both had rosters of art professors with MFA's from highfalutin schools such as Yale. A bit far from The Mary Boone Gallery I would say. Sic Transit Gloria.

From: Lorraine Bugera -- Nov 03, 2012

Talk about two artists; I think of myself as a rank amateur beginner but my teacher tells me I'm intermediate if I go to these workshops. Never mind I love the making. I'm grateful that she sent me this link and the subscription. I appreciate your newsletter. I'm not great with technology and this is the only way I could figure out how to tell you that I am moved by 'An Afternoon at Black Tusk'. When I was a karateka sensei they used to tell us we had no place to comment on the masters technique; guess I'm getting cheekier in my old age.

From: Cheri Wollenberg -- Nov 03, 2012

I find myself in a sandwich generation of taking care of an elderly parent, helping children with their children and somewhere in this life madness try to create art on a consistent basis. My husband and I are retired and have been remodeling a 100 year old farm ranch home! I spent much of my productive years teaching art in public schools so I couldn't wait until I retired so that I would have lots of time to devote to my own art (laugh). I am a thief of time now. I grab what I can and I especially enjoyed today's post on the two kinds of artists. It encouraged me in knowing that all these little quick vignette paintings that I do will help my ability to make better art when and if I have the opportunity to spend more time on it one of these days. In the great scheme of time all of it will not matter anyway.

From: Sonja Picard -- Nov 03, 2012

I see this a lot in my 20+ years as an artist.... It goes back to a comment I made about ‘MOXIE’ no matter how amazing Jack is professionally... it's his inner process as a person that prevents his art success. What we create is our soul speaking – our inner demons of fear of being seen, issues of not being good enough, fear of ‘what people will think or your work’ are obstacles one must conquer. If you are confident, and ‘don’t follow other artists etc and doing your thing’ you CAN do anything.. even if your talent is a 6 out 10... I just met an artist who started painting 15 months ago and has NO knowledge of other artists and his paintings are good not great... but he is having a blast AND he has sold over $500,000.00 in paintings... that’s right over a half a million dollars... all I thought to myself... I have something to learn from him.

From: Kim Coie -- Nov 03, 2012

I have heard before that prolific artists produce more and better works than less prolific artists. This also means that the prolific artists are working hard at it. For example, if it takes 2 hours to do a painting. Then a prolific artist may be working 60 hours a week.

From: Susan Marx -- Nov 03, 2012

This is one of the most inspiring emails I have received from you.

Good painting comes from the act of painting. If you wait for the muse to strike, you will wait forever. If you use your own eye as you work and give yourself good constructive criticism you will be ahead of the game. And as long as YOU (not someone else) like what you are doing, you are on the right path.

As for getting into galleries, it is a matter of luck too. And it is often who you know rather than what you know (as in most things in live). When you are not painting, you should be networking.

From: Judith Jewer -- Nov 03, 2012

It takes real courage and humility to give up the need to be 'good' or 'accomplished' in the art education process... Funny - loosing the persnickityness leads to some really achievement... That inner critic doesn't really know as much as we think it does. I told my students last night that regardless of what the drawing looks like - we need to have unconditional positive regard for the process and the drawing. If you are freaking out about how 'good' it is you will not have any leftover brain matter to devote to making it good.

From: Sonia Tuttle -- Nov 04, 2012

Excellent point! I'll be painting more and computing less. Your letters are so inspiring.

From: Liz Coomes -- Nov 04, 2012

Thanks as always for your honest and thoughtful letters on "The Painter's Keys website. Just this week, as I moved my work indoors to my studio from the long season of Spring into Fall, I took stock too. Oh my, I recalled the saying " a mile of canvas" as I stacked old and new paintings(over 400 of them) around the studio. So today's post about the two test groups of potters rang especially true to me.

I wish I had some words of wisdom but the closest I seem to be able to come is 'keep on painting' and don't let the measurement or the perfectionism stop you.

From: Lauri Copeman -- Nov 04, 2012

How does one gracefully make the transition from a painter who has been selling their work for years between 500-1500$ , has a fairly good gallery connection(s), and the odd prize or two to a painter that suddenly makes 10,000$ for a work and moves to real international success?

I have just moved to another country where the people I know are very old money/status, like my work, and are used to paying much more for even minor painters such as myself. The other day a friend of mine who has countess friend wanted to offer my painting to her for quadruple what I charge now.

I was flummoxed.

Should one seize the opportunity for that one time thus eventually insulting the countess when she finds out what others have been paying? Or do it and raise the price of the rest of the work?

Every academic I talk to insists that pricing is up to art dealers, but no art dealer really has an interest until you hit the big time – and even then I am pretty good at business and do I need Charlie the Tuna running my career for me?

In the end, we didn’t put a price on it and the countess decided the painting wasn’t a fit for her so I could sleep again, but she’s not the only countess in town and if I can imagine how this could happen it probably will. Now I just need to imagine how to do the business end of it.

What does your experience say?

From: Dick Lee -- Nov 04, 2012

This appears to be my year of the rabbit hole. My son has invited me on a trip to Peru ... destination: “Chavin de Huantar” ... about 400 miles north from Lima in the Cordillera Blanca of the Andes. You can Google map it with a satellite pic. It makes me think of your trip to The Bugaboos with enormous vistas as well. It is a large, pre-Incan archeological site from about 1,000 to 300 BCE. I think it parallels Machu Pichu in interest.

My son has a friend who invited us and is some kind of shaman. The trip is to celebrate the equinox with week long ceremonies. So, it appears I’ll be taking a soul walk with Alice and Don Pedro. The trip itself, from Lima, is kind’a like the adventure from Vancouver to Cortes. My head is whirling. We leave 15 December.

Got any advice on how to “contain” panoramic views from mountain tops?

From: John Barrell -- Nov 04, 2012

Jack and Jill are a story as old as time itself. The most important skill successful artists have is salesmanship. Marketing should be taught in art schools as without marketing skills your just another well trained starving artist.

From: Diane Overmyer -- Nov 04, 2012

I had a business class in college where that book "Art and Fear" was assigned reading. The passage you included in your letter has come to my mind over and over. I also remember reading about an interview done with a successful deceased artist's son. When asked why his father had "made it" in the world of art, the son had replied something to the effect "Because he had to keep a roof over our heads and put food on our table."

I've only been painting full time for two years, but I can see definite improvement in my work! This past summer our region of the world experienced record breaking high temperatures and draught conditions. I had a large solo plein air painting exhibit lined up with a dead line at the end of September looming in front of me. The exhibit ended up consisting of 48 plein air paintings. Needless to say, I pushed myself to get out and paint because of that deadline. Was it hard at times? yes! Was it worth it? YES!

From: Enid Egan -- Nov 04, 2012

I realize that studying, and trying to figure out what to do about 3 unfinished paintings for over a year (I have more than 3 but these 3 are constantly in my face) is wasting my time. My earlier paintings look better than what I do now. I've gotten too finickity. I really want to splash around and do something that really knocks my socks off.

And so, I'm joining the experimentalists.

From: Alex Nodopaka -- Nov 04, 2012

This is a well-taken point of view and a fine analysis of the results. I'm afraid there are many other criteria to judge the results. In my opinion I'd judge the quantitative issue by if whether there were enough paintings to wall paper a room and if not they'd lose the contest to the qualitative view point because it would be a matter of opinion. As for me, I'd request to evaluate all works if sent to me in large cardboard boxes. I'm preparing to move I need a lot of them.

From: Kimberly Blackstock -- Nov 04, 2012

I have recently dived back into the magnificent world of painting. I quit my graphic design career of almost 20 years (also 40 yrs old, like your article subjects). And found your e-mail eye-opening and very helpful.

Because I have a family and am committed to keeping them fed and clothed, I am understandably somewhat concerned about making "perfect paintings" all the time to put food on the table. Yet you have reinforced my true belief that I have to learn from every painting, and to paint my heart out in order to get to the level I aim to be.

Artists are not finished schooling ever! Every painting is a course and we need to pay attention.

From: Lisa Markin -- Nov 04, 2012

As I embark on my long awaited dream of allowing myself the luxury to have more art in my life....I also feel somewhat intimidated.....do I NEED to go all the way....BFA/ Masters? It is REALLY "necessary"??? I am 45....am I TOO OLD? Will I ever be good e-n-o-u-g-h?

From: Marg Vetter -- Nov 04, 2012

You hit the nail on the head, my late friend and mentor Joe Abresccia, said very much the same thing, he would have agreed with “Jill” don’t bother with galleries (except for the old masters who have lasted) art magazines etc. and don’t let anyone put your art down, and work, work and work.......

From: Tiit Raid -- Nov 04, 2012

The more I paint the better the paintings.

And: The longer I look the more I see. The more I see the better I paint.

From: Russ Hogger -- Nov 04, 2012

First quantity, then quality.

From: Faith -- Nov 05, 2012

To"Noname steaks": nearly all nursery rhymes stem from political, health or pressing family issues. The Jack in MY quote was not wearing a crown. A good example of the health rhyme is "Ring-a-ring-a roses", which is a take on the great plague.
However, I should point out that I was not indulging in oneupmanship. I was merely amused at Bob's subtle use of names. If he'd taken 3 artists, he might have talked about Tom, Dick and Harry and included all artists of all time!

From: Cheri -- Nov 06, 2012

Your article was speaking directly to me! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

From: Etta Yeary -- Nov 06, 2012

The Jack and Jill story says it all...........paint paint paint.......study study study ........but keep painting painting painting......then paint some more!

From: Elizabeth Dodd -- Nov 06, 2012

Regarding apps and "art"--In the Accent section of the Palm Beach Post 5 November, 2012, there is a cover story of an artist, A.J. Brockman, with muscular dystrophy who "paints" with one finger using Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop. He recently finished a 6 month project of a First Family portrait of the Obamas.

From: Cuidado -- Nov 06, 2012

I have added your link to my site for the free book. Cool offer. I love your letters. Very inspirational.
http://cre8ive1.blogspot.ca/

From: Comments moderator -- Nov 07, 2012

Cuidado --The reason we're offering this free book is that we think there are still artists out there who might profit from Robert's letters and the other features of the Painter's Keys site. We've found that the best way to do this is to ask current subscribers to copy Robert's letters to their own sites, blogs, etc, and to permanently put up one of the little link logos available for downloading from our site (see badge above). Please ensure we have your address, so your free book can be on the way in the mail to you.

From: marj vetter -- Nov 08, 2012

thanks for the recognition, but Marj is spelt with a J....ok...lol




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