Painters Keys - Fine Artist

Painters Keys

Surrey, BC - Canada

 
 
 

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Painters Keys

Surrey, BC - Canada

Painters Keys - Fine Artist

Member Since:

March 4th, 2013

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17

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106

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About Painters Keys

The Painter's Keys is the online extension of Robert Genn's Twice-Weekly Letter. Creative folks from more than 115 countries visit this website for information, inspiration, artist advice, friendship and connectivity. Informed and successful painters and other artists make their own contribution through the Twice-Weekly responses or clickbacks. It has also been our goal to make this website an online resource of information for artists and a place to share with others what you are doing, such as through the Art Show Calendar, Art Workshop Calendar and Premium Art Listings. One of the most popular pages is the Art Quotes page, and we also share other things like a listing of Art Retreats available to artists, books, videos, and more.

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Love and money

February 8th, 2015

A subscriber who wishes to remain anonymous wrote, "Making art is something I do for me -- I can't see my creations being very interesting to anyone else -- nevertheless people tell me I should make a book or try to sell my work. It seems that the wo... 

Morphic fields

February 8th, 2015

Morphic fields, a little understood phenomenon, suggests a Jungian collective consciousness. I have often wondered about the presence of this condition in artists... 

The kitchen sink collector

February 8th, 2015

It's a minimalist work of delicate, saturated dabs in golden ochre and grey -- a designy, wood block-inspired meditation reminiscent of a seascape. The painting holds its own in an eclectic room of thoughtfully gathered objects and art. "I have alway... 

Marvellous confabulation

February 8th, 2015

Art is a confabulation. Perhaps only with the addition of confabulation can art deliver its wizardry and magic. Scientifically defined, confabulation is the confusion of imagination with memory, and/or the confusion of true memories with false memori... 

The limitations game

February 8th, 2015

"I am good at only two things," said Claude Monet, "and those are gardening and painting." The son of a grocer, Monet knew he wanted to be an artist at age five. At forty-three he relocated to Giverny to build his garden. The cataracts Monet develope... 

Blue Moose

February 8th, 2015

Ted Harrison is well known for his colourful and childlike paintings of the Yukon. Coming from a background in teaching and academic painting, he started painting afresh in mid life. Purple skies, red dogs, yellow snow and blue moose inhabit his uniq... 

Room with a view

February 8th, 2015

I’m laptopping you from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, at the top of a snowy track descending 4,380 feet to the Colorado River. Papery flakes float down from an infinite, domed sky into a bottomless pink bowl -- all visible through the picture wi... 

Holiday

February 8th, 2015

Did you ever have a feeling that today was an "extra day," one that you could pretty well lay back in and do what you felt like? Today's one of those. We're hanging at anchor in a sunny cove in one of the Mackenzie tributaries. I'm in the forward pai... 

Seven ways to start

February 8th, 2015

American abstractionist Richard Diebenkorn said, "I don't go into the studio with the idea of 'saying' something. What I do is face the blank canvas and put a few arbitrary marks on it that start me on some sort of dialogue." He's talking about the g... 

Character formation

February 8th, 2015

I'm writing this letter from the location of the old railway station at Lake O'Hara in Canada's Rocky Mountains. This is where John Singer Sargent got off the train in 1916. There is a lot of curiosity about this artist. Sara and I are looking around... 

Getting it out there

February 8th, 2015

With each painting I remembered why I'd fallen in love -- each work an amorous dream in colour, each stroke laying bare the grit required to communicate the contents of a human heart. When shared with the world, these paintings find life nudging othe... 

Tom Thomson

February 8th, 2015

Here in Canada we a have national icon. His name is Tom Thomson. For a brief period of six years he painted brilliant paintings of Canada's north. His images are etched into the fabric of Canada's culture. Thousands of artists have been influenced by... 

The magic of yearning

February 8th, 2015

I read once that we all have a "happiness set-point," and that it usually returns about six months after a trauma or extreme life event. In other words, a miserable person who wins the lottery is soon a miserable millionaire. Likewise, joyful souls..... 

Style in art

February 8th, 2015

From the cosmic consciousness of our artist-subscribers came three letters in the same day, all asking about style. How important is style? How do I find my style? How do I avoid getting locked into a style? This means something, I thought... 

Is landscape dead?

February 8th, 2015

Subscriber Jack Monk writes, "Is visual art on its way out? Or is it just landscape painting that is the most dead of all art forms? Should it just be allowed to die or to reconstruct itself in some (as yet unimagined) new form?" Thanks, Jack. After ... 

Looking inward

February 8th, 2015

I crawled back into my space. After the hyper energy of the outer world, the East, pushing and shoving, sights seen, gifts collected, philosophies touched. This room, this untidy room, now tidy from my absence, the home of my work, this studio. The o... 

The feedback loop

February 8th, 2015

A subscriber who wishes to remain anonymous writes, "I have often been dissatisfied with the juror of shows. I am bringing the idea of doing one show a year that would be peer reviewed to my local artist’s association. My thought is that all will kno... 

The art shrine

February 8th, 2015

An anonymous email came in from a subscriber: "The Painter's Keys is not a website -- it's a vision. It's a vision of a universal brotherhood and sisterhood, timeless and for all time. It's a vision of solitary strugglers who are united in the obliga... 

The wandering studio

February 8th, 2015

Spiritual guru Yogi Bhajan taught his followers to "travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light." As artists, we either wait for perfect conditions and get nothing done, or we cultivate a serendipitous imagination tool-kit and carry it w... 

Why landscape

February 8th, 2015

A question I've been asked often by students is, "Why do you paint mainly landscapes?" Some universities are still announcing that painting is dead, and that landscape painting is particularly dead. However, this is not something that I've noticed. H... 

Light switch

January 26th, 2015

I'm standing in a white room with a digital projector that blasts a square of white light on a white wall. In the centre is a shaky drawing of a light switch. A cartoon finger comes up from the lower left hand corner and flips the switch. The project... 

About fire

January 26th, 2015

Several artists visited my studio to pick up their paintings that I've been using for a small research project. With each friend I came around to asking the same question: "What's firing you up these days?" The answers were as wide and varied as thei... 

The prestige

January 26th, 2015

I recently spent an evening at a comedy club in North Melbourne. Headlining was a grey-haired, plaid-shirted guy who told jokes about local conveniences, including the technological prompts that pepper modern life -- the talking grocery store bagging... 

Uniqueness

January 26th, 2015

Something I've learned from the sending and receiving of letters is the defiant individuality and uniqueness of creative people. Beginners and seasoned professionals: each and every one of us is a sovereign unit. Intuitively, we tend to guard against... 

Whats in the Box

January 26th, 2015

A new friend recently invited me to her weekly Melbourne life-drawing group -- "Roar Draw" -- (antipodean-pronounced "raw draw.") "I'm so excited," she said. "One minute and two minute poses, and I love to use my left hand. I can literally feel the d... 

The artistic alternative

January 26th, 2015

At no time in our progress do we stop wondering what the secret is. Sometimes I think just knowing that there's more than one way to paint a tree is the main part of it. The idea is that every work of art has to be worked out in its own way. It's pos... 

A cycle of wonder

January 26th, 2015

At the St. Kilda pier in Melbourne, Australia, stands a marina, boardwalk, Edwardian-era kiosk and a rocky breakwater jutting out into the long tidal flat of Port Phillip Bay. Prevailing winds from the Tasman Sea sweep an outstretched beach of shimme... 

Tradition

January 26th, 2015

South of Arles on a small canal is a famous bridge: Pont de Langlois remains almost as Vincent Van Gogh would have seen it in 1888. Moved from its former site, today it's off a secondary road and fairly difficult to find. The air is full of lavender ... 

Design life

November 2nd, 2014

American sculptor Robin Antar says, "Life is an empty square unless one fills it up with matter." Life is also just waiting for our design. Last Saturday my family joined old and new friends, artists and collectors who had gathered to celebrate a per... 

Your sacred hour

September 20th, 2014

Mark Twain wrote, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." While likening studio time to frogocide could be considered extreme, fear of difficulty, fear of failure, fear of success, fear o... 

Reality check

September 20th, 2014

"The reality is that many creative people do not have the freedom to follow their nose. What's to be done where someone holds a nine-to-five job or even manages a home and family? Here are a couple of suggestions: The first is to engrave in stone an ... 

Game time

September 14th, 2014

An emerging New York artist I know paints quality abstracts. Over the last few years, he's worked a day job in design and art direction, while exhibiting his paintings through an artist's agent. Recently, he wrote, "I really need to get a show -- any... 

Painting a portrait

September 14th, 2014

"Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend," said John Singer Sargent. He may have been joking--his portraits combined a reasonable likeness with an elegance which often made sitters more aristocratic looking than they may have deserved. As well ... 

The pro-creative ritual

September 14th, 2014

"Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition," wrote Anglo-American poet W. H. Auden in 1958. Auden believed that a strict schedule was essential to creativity - a way of metering the muse into regular, controlled doses. "A modern stoic kno... 

An artists mind

September 14th, 2014

My friend Joe Blodgett said, "There's two ways to walk this path--one for the path and one for the spirit." In a cathedral of Douglas fir and alder, blown twigs from the night's storm over a carpet of autumn, Joe crouches down and watches the steady ... 

Art and marriage

September 14th, 2014

I once listened to a singer/songwriter belt out a tune for his new girlfriend: he complained of being artistically washed up because he was so contented. Perhaps the heart's new responsibility endangers our languid days of cloud-gazing and productive... 

The canary in the mine

August 28th, 2014

Artists of the past often suffered poor physical and mental health due to the materials they worked with: lead, powdered pigment, turpentine, carcinogens, etc. It's difficult to know if Vincent van Gogh put paint in his mouth, but someone, somewhere,... 

Letters to a young artist

August 28th, 2014

In "Letters to a Young Artist," Anna writes to a fictional young painter called BZ. "Art should take what is complex and render it simply," she advises. "It takes a lot of skill, human understanding, stamina, courage, energy, and heart to do that." A... 

Your true muses

August 28th, 2014

To work your muses, the first thing you have to do is separate your true muses from your false muses. Your true muses are those that turn you on, interest you, excite you and motivate you to explore further. Both true and false muses are generated in... 

Embracing the pivot

August 28th, 2014

Micro-pivots and lifelong creative evolutions are the grist for our mill and become our own art history... When engrossed in an undertaking that's losing thrust or promise, we face the challenge of finding the courage to make adjustments. The differe... 

The Post-Show Blues

August 28th, 2014

Some artists have trouble getting back into their work after a solo show. The desire is there but they can't proceed. It's called PSB--Post-Show Blues. I've spent a lifetime trying to either eliminate or lessen the condition. A show's success or fail... 

Building a show

August 28th, 2014

Amidst the day-to-day supply and demand of painting and deliveries, solo shows are an opportunity to build something bigger. Think of it as your own personal advancing of the whole history of art -- a strengthening occurs, with multiple works holding... 

The meaning of success

August 28th, 2014

I've come to realize success means a lot of different things to different artists. Some consider simply feeling good about themselves to be the mark of success. Many get the good feeling just by producing a decent watercolour. Others think success is... 

The smiling game

August 28th, 2014

Recently, Tim began a project called "The Smiling Game." In it, he takes his camera into public spaces and asks two strangers to stand facing each other. Then, following a hunch, he asks one of them to smile. Tim has noticed that after awhile the per... 

Keys to motivation

August 28th, 2014

Work is not work when work is loved. This thought is affirmed by legions of artists who have no trouble being motivated. Many get themselves started with the expectation of joy. But hardly one of us hasn't, at some time, lacked the desire to do so. I... 

The one-millimetre rule

August 28th, 2014

Often, artists entertain bold moves as a solution to floundering inspiration, disappointing work, or a lackluster bank balance."Insanity," said Albert Einstein, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Maybe a so... 

Bern Will Brown

August 28th, 2014

My friend Bern Will Brown is 86 now, but he's still going strong. He's spent the last 44 years in Colville Lake (pop. 100), an isolated outpost way up in Canada's far north. Born in upstate New York, Bern spent his childhood looking across Lake Ontar... 

Tims Vermeer

July 17th, 2014

Tim Jenison is a lifelong inventor from San Antonio, Texas. These days he manages a company that makes live and post-production video imaging software for computers. Tim's a smart guy and ever curious -- busy building things when he's not running his... 

Paint by seeing paint

July 17th, 2014

I've always noticed that master creators have a seemingly easy ability to think on their feet. They look at their work in progress and amend it in what appears to be a natural and intuitive way. It's easy to get the idea that they are just talented a... 

Ecstasy

July 17th, 2014

I once saw Swan Lake at the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Centre in New York City. Settling in as the lights dimmed and the chandeliers ascended, organza tutus appeared on the stage like soft, floating objects of meditation... 

Spots of time

July 7th, 2014

The English poet William Wordsworth had a concept that he called "Spots of Time." These are small, memorable events that occur mainly outdoors and in touch with nature. According to Wordsworth, these spots have lasting quality and are capable of "lif... 

A new tube

July 7th, 2014

Due to a serendipitous detour en route to New York, I'm laptopping you from the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. Twenty thousand teenagers -- mostly girls clutching their pass and iphone -- congregate for a chance to meet, interact a... 

Opportunities for design

June 30th, 2014

Back in mediaeval times, I was conducting a workshop and pontificating about design. A man put his hand up and said, "When you use the word 'design,' I have no idea what you're talking about. What are you talking about?" I realized right then that, f... 

Agent of change

June 26th, 2014

I'm laptopping you from our family home in Crescent Beach, B.C. where we've spent a magic spring under the watchful eye of a resident crow. Dmitry caws in the branches of a nearby dogwood until a nugget of carrot cake is placed on the picnic table. I... 

Vulnerability

June 26th, 2014

Artists may be more vulnerable to the slings and arrows than most people. Even the egocentric and bubbly among us can be sensitive and touchy. Personal failings as well as monetary and relationship problems lie heavily on us, affecting our mood-swing... 

Whats your ministry

June 26th, 2014

In a recent commencement address at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield Iowa, comedian Jim Carrey describes the moment he gave a name to his life's calling. "The purpose of my life had always been to free people from concern," says Ji... 

Recovery

June 26th, 2014

A player breaks away, speeds down the ice, then, in a confused dust-up, loses control of the puck. Somehow, miraculously, he manages to get it again--and goes on to score. It's called "recovery." Think of it this way: Some artists, whose planning and... 

A celebration of life

June 16th, 2014

Dad's location could be narrowed down, for periods, to a four-by-four foot spot at our home on Beckett Road. Here, with his force of infinite dedication, he logged infinite moments of joy and toil, practice and patience, craft, love and boundless dis... 

Aerial perspective

June 16th, 2014

One summer we rented a home in Pont-Aven. This Brittany village is where Gauguin painted off and on between 1886 and 1890. The pension in which he held forth with Emile Bernard and Paul Sérusier is now a news agency. The section of town where we stay... 

The perks of disorientation

June 16th, 2014

Behavioural scientist Winifred Gallagher, in "Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life," suggests our lives are formed by the attention we give to something, rather than by fate, circumstance, fortune or even chaos. But what happens in those exceptional ... 

The age of sharing

June 16th, 2014

We are pioneers in one of history's great events. We now have the potential to connect our images, sounds and written words to every being on planet Earth. This democratization cuts across all traditional lines--of nation, religion, race, language an... 

Robert Genn

June 5th, 2014

I tapped along on his laptop as he riffed a stream of consciousness, his sense of wonder twinkling, then sparkling, his voice growing ever softer, his hand squeezing mine when we paused. "The thing about art is that life is in no danger of being mean... 

Figuring it out

June 5th, 2014

Stephan's passion was poetry. He wrote in Icelandic: abrupt, visual, heartfelt. Six books were published during his lifetime with many translations to come. He died in 1927. He's known as "Iceland's poet of the Rocky Mountains." Stephansson House is ... 

Finding passion

May 25th, 2014

Some artists who might read this, especially the more highly evolved ones, are going to say, "I don't need to find passion, I've already found it." Fair enough. Here are a few ideas for those who may have misplaced it. Dr. Susan Biali, 37, a medical ... 

Opium dream

May 25th, 2014

On recent afternoons, we can be found sitting beneath our red cedars, daydreaming under what Dad describes as "sharp, vibrant, individual foliage and light." He's observing what it's like to be under the influence of palliative morphine... While most... 

Our parade of wonders

May 17th, 2014

Within easy walking distance of my studio is Crescent Park. When we're at home, Dorothy and I go there in every season, nearly every day. I'm guessing the park is about a hundred acres and includes playing fields, a small lake and, for us, a labyrint... 

Too beautiful to pass up

May 14th, 2014

Early one morning long ago, I was at my studio easel when an acquaintance, a fellow boater, phoned to give me an unusual tip. "Did you know," he asked, "that a guy is living on a derelict fish boat at anchor in the Nicomekl River on the big bend, and... 

As artists, we all sit somewhere on the Lone Wolf / Collaborator spectrum. Statistically, painters tend toward solitude if they can get away with it, thriving on the blessings of singular focus and private vision. Musicians and other performing artis... 

My dad used to say that I led a charmed life. He'd say, "He's never had a job, he loves what he does, he's a happy guy and he always seems to have enough money to do what he wants. He even looks after everyone else." Recently, hearing this sort of th... 

Love labour

May 1st, 2014

On recent afternoons, I've been preparing panels for Dad's archives. This involves a good cleaning, examining the varnish and, if necessary, re-coating. When done, I'll take a small selection up to the bedroom. In almost every case, he remembers the ... 

Made to last

April 28th, 2014

I couldn't help but notice little traps placed inconspicuously at the bases of some of the totem poles in the Great Hall of the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia. The poles, some dating from 1880 and relocated from their original... 

Something about Bill

April 28th, 2014

I'm laptopping you from the rotunda at the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology. In the centre is Bill Reid's monumental cedar carving, "The Raven and The First Men." According to Haida legend, the Raven found himself alone on Rose... 

Conundrum

April 28th, 2014

On Sunday afternoon Sam Bray and his family visited from Perth, Australia. Sam's a tall, bright-eyed young man, about 16 years old, who studies fine art, computer science, drama, literature and physics, speaks Japanese, and plays bass saxophone in hi... 

Cropping and relining

April 20th, 2014

Relining a larger work onto a smaller, rigid support can be a re-imagination of possibilities. For canvases below 16 x 20 inches I choose from a selection of quarter-inch mahogany panels pre-cut to standard sizes... 

The Value of Silhouette

April 20th, 2014

Have you ever noticed how a silhouette can tell you such a lot by saying less? That's because the human mind is capable of filling in needed information to complete a picture or to recognize a familiar image. Silhouettes were originally profile portr... 

Bush leagues

April 11th, 2014

Not being in the habit of making comments on international affairs, I asked my American friend Elmer Waite what he thought of former U.S. President George W. Bush's portrait paintings of world leaders. "Everyone," said Elmer, "no matter how exalted o... 

Eight Rules of Painting

April 11th, 2014

In the corner of Mrs. Haddleton's seventh-grade art class stood a potter's wheel and a kiln. I straddled the little stool and threw down a grapefruit-sized ball of clay--my first pot. Gently kicking the wheel's power over to me, she cautioned, "You'r... 

Last month my daughter, Sara, was invited to take part in "The Big Egg Hunt." Two hundred and eighty-seven plain white fiberglass eggs, about two and a half feet high, were to be re-imagined as individual artists saw fit. When offered projects like t... 

How to sell art

April 6th, 2014

The New York Hip Hop collective Wu-Tang Clan has recently announced they'll be selling just one single copy of their forthcoming album, "Once Upon A Time In Shaolin." Visual artists are familiar with the single-copy concept. The economics of the art ... 

Night Magic

April 6th, 2014

This morning, while I was slurping a cup of joe at the kitchen window, a childhood friend appeared at the top of the driveway. Jane in black leggings and I in bedhead, we caught eyes. She began to run in place and then surged in my direction like a s... 

Blessed are the curious

March 24th, 2014

At the risk of once more dividing the world into two main kinds of people, there are two main kinds of people: those who amuse themselves, and those who require amusement from others. Artists seem to be pretty much of the former kind. Self-amusement... 

Where does it come from?

March 20th, 2014

The id is defined as "inherited instinctive impulses of the individual as part of the unconscious." It's also generally associated with sex drive. What got me going on this was the observation by friends that I had what they thought was an "instinct ... 

Before I fell in love

March 17th, 2014

While cleaning out one of our storage areas yesterday, we found a really old paintbox. It turned out to be one of my first: gray-painted, heavy and substantial, built for the road by my dad. Opening it up for the first time in many years, it brought ... 

Bonding and sealing

March 16th, 2014

Catherine Campbell writes, "I have a varnish dilemma. I'm almost finished a commissioned acrylic painting that I will be bringing back from Mexico to Canada in a few weeks. I wanted to put a coat of gloss medium over that work before we leave, to sea... 

Good times

March 10th, 2014

A few days ago Pomegranate Publishers of Portland, Oregon put out their long awaited "J. Fenwick Lansdowne," a lush coffee-table book illustrating the bird art of my friend Fen. I had the privilege of writing the section on our early life together. F... 

Doomspiration

March 6th, 2014

At the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia a room is hung salon-style with 19th Century British and European paintings. The display is immense, covering two facing walls hung floor-to-ceiling with the works of Delacroix, Ingres, Daum... 

How to save a life

March 3rd, 2014

A dreamer's in my closet - he can be heard in the middle of the night making delicate tears in the 140lb Arches Cold Press watercolour block and moving jellybeans out of my tote bag. That little mouse lives here, too, says Peter. Rather than set a tr... 

Your social influence

March 2nd, 2014

Recent studies of young people in the act of choosing music have shed some light on how the art game works. Teenagers in an online study were asked to rate a wide choice of unknown bands and new songs. One test group listened in isolation while other... 

Getting your mojo back

February 24th, 2014

Yesterday, Doug Swinton wrote: "It seems lately I have lost my will to paint--or, as they say, I have lost my Mojo. Where does one go or what does one do to find one's Mojo? I'm hoping for some Mojo wisdom from you." Mojo is one of those words that p... 

Creative kids

February 24th, 2014

In the art of parenting we all begin as amateurs. By the time we turn pro, it's generally too late. Carol and I managed three out of the box: a filmmaker, a musician, and a painter. All are apparently flourishing. Here are some ideas we bumped into w... 

A parents voice

February 17th, 2014

At the risk of being one of those who divide the world into two main kinds of people, there are two main types of artists: those who have a need to listen to the opinions of others, and those who do not. That being said, this habit can come and go--l... 

Whats in your tool kit?

February 16th, 2014

Jim the plumber--a man with a high profession by any standards--travels with a complex kit. He drives a full van. Pipes, pumps, ball-cocks, flapper-valves and roto-rooters fill out a palette for his subterranean artistry. By contrast, a scene-painter... 

After several weeks working at the Badg-easel I feel I'm a bit of an expert at horizontal painting, and I'd like to tell you about it. First, to clarify, I'm working with no reference, from the memories of places I've painted en plein air. While not ... 

The queen of colours

February 6th, 2014

Renoir declared, "I've been forty years discovering that the queen of all colours is black!" What he meant was that black works as a darkener because its near chromal neutrality does not sully the colour it grays. While scorned on a few snooty palett... 

The power of red

February 3rd, 2014

Cochineal is a red dyestuff extracted from the blood of a beetle parasite on Prickly Pear Cacti. Formerly used to make carmine and scarlet lakes, it was first imported from Mexico into Europe in 1560. British army uniforms were dyed with it. Permanen... 

The story of yellow

February 3rd, 2014

Traditionally, yellow has come from five main sources--mango, gamboge, orpiment, ochre and saffron. In the case of the Indian mango bush, the leaves were force-fed to a certain type of cow. At this point the cow's bladder would produce a urine-dyestu... 

Am I blue?

February 3rd, 2014

Ultramarine blue seems to breathe. It represents the air between the viewer and the viewed. Aerial perspective can't live without it. More than any other colour, Ultra blue holds sky-magic, the zenith, the spiritual--closest thing to heaven--and the ... 

What are you leaving out?

January 23rd, 2014

"The secret to being a bore," said Voltaire, "is to tell everything." In painting, it's what you don't describe that makes what is described so poignant. In human biology, the Reticular Activating System is the part of the brain that helps us become ... 

Horizontal painting

January 23rd, 2014

After several tries at various "chaise-longues" we've settled on a state-of-the-art American-made "Serta" power-operated recliner that not only lays you out in a variety of positions in memory foam but, when you're finished, ejects you to an almost s... 

The wisdom of no escape

January 16th, 2014

During a bumpy period a few years ago in New York, I had a small revelation about how to thrive when things aren't going as expected. It occurred to me that when we're in school we seldom question the curriculum but instead merely show up for class. ... 

Eleven steps to your world

January 14th, 2014

Tonight, as happens often these days, it's me who closes up the studio. It gets dark early at this time of year. Dorothy and I turn down the heat, close the computers, wet down the palettes, put the phone back in its cradle, shut the lights and lock ... 

Stylistic economies

January 14th, 2014

Small economies of style are regularly used by evolved painters as a way to speed up the operation and to give freshness and life. This often means looking ahead to potential problematic areas and avoiding those laborious passages that tend to get th... 

Faith-based art-making

January 6th, 2014

"I don't actually know what I'm doing," he admitted, "but I have faith I can do it and faith will be enough." The painting, long since lost to posterity, was pretty bad on most levels. It was done after Botticelli's Venus except there were many more ... 

From my window

January 2nd, 2014

From my bedroom window a vast tidal estuary spreads in three directions. In wintertime, when tides cooperate, these flats are a festival of seabirds. A dozen species of ducks overwinter here, as do Western sandpipers, Ruddy turnstones and many others... 

On a rocky outstation

December 30th, 2013

Dad squeezed my shoulder. "Look at it, look at it," he said. "I mean the material." He had tears in his eyes. Without room or brawn for paint boxes on our seven-day trek, we made peace with our seven-pound camera lenses and blossomed into a shooting ... 

Crashed and slashed

December 28th, 2013

Every Christmas someone's painting falls off the wall. It happened again this year--a small, plaintive voice at the end of the phone: "I'm sorry to bother you Mr. Genn, but our big one of yours fell down and hit the fire-tongs. Two small slices in th... 

The twenty percent

December 28th, 2013

A few years ago, Adam Leipzig attended his 25th reunion at Yale University. At Yale, he had been a theatre geek and literature major. Mingling in the party tent that summer evening, Adam listened to complaints about emptiness, wasted years, and gener... 

On being here now

December 28th, 2013

On January 23, 2001, I wrote you a twice-weekly letter from a hammock beside a sleepy lagoon in a tropical clime. Heliconius butterflies skipped over the calm surface where unseen tilapia and bobo mullet roiled below. The daily passage from sunrise t... 

A childs play

December 17th, 2013

"The creative adult is the child who has survived." Wise artists practice daily with their inner youngster, and the task doesn't lighten with success...  

A memory of Thailand

December 12th, 2013

"What are you doing?" a voice asks from behind me in clear, almost musical English. Turning around I find a saffron-robed monk. He is a round little man with a round, shaven head, flatter than it is deep--a face like a bas-relief. He is smiling, frie... 

A return to awareness

December 12th, 2013

Perhaps being sick is another way of travelling. Old tasks bring new tasks with new styling. This week Dad started painting from a lying-down position. He settled on the studio sofa, nestled among his papers, books and Dorothy. He tilted the canvas o... 

On where to start

December 6th, 2013

Surprisingly, many painters today labour from the top down--even landscapes--as if drawing a blind down the canvas. By contrast, Cezanne, more typical of the Impressionists and others, painted "all at once," a system readily observed in Cezanne's unf... 

Claim your rival

December 2nd, 2013

Ferrari driver Niki Lauda was Formula 1's World Champion in 1975, 1977 and 1984. Ron Howard's 2013 feature film "Rush" explores the relationship between Niki and his rival, English driver James Hunt. "A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a... 

Discover your archetype

November 30th, 2013

As soon as you enter the world of fairy tales or myths, you become aware of recurring types of characters. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called these characters "archetypes." He felt that the human race had a shared heritage and a collective uncon... 

About the law of recent memory

November 24th, 2013

We have a patio built out above our overgrown ravine. If I stand on the edge I can drop a ball down into the jungle. Though she can't see where the ball goes, Dorothy will enthusiastically tear around, find her way down below and generally bring back... 

Laurie and Lou

November 24th, 2013

When Laurie Anderson was 19, she moved from Glen Ellyn, Illinois to New York City to study art history and sculpture. Early on, she made a thing called "Automotive" - it was a symphony played on car horns. She was hooked. Laurie went on to pioneer el... 

The Magic Hour

November 9th, 2013

Sara writes: I have a memory from my childhood of walking alone with my Dad, somewhere in Brittany. I was about eleven. We were talking about the Post-Impressionists and about waiting for the day's end, the best painting light - the "magic hour." It ... 

Thanks

November 9th, 2013

Randy Pausch, a young professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had the same cancer as I do. He wrote a book about his adventure--"The Last Lecture." It was on the New York Times Best seller list for months. The book was all about thankfulness and how... 

The Bomb

November 9th, 2013

On Saturday morning, 10:30 to be exact, I was painting at my easel when a quiet knock came to my upper studio door. It was my friend and neighbor, Dr. Bob Cheyne, who also happens to be our family doctor. As soon as I saw his face I knew something wa... 

Art distribution

October 19th, 2013

Apparently, in art, you can sell just about anything. If you had a roundish brown pad of a thing, you could sell it. It would be best to charge a lot for it. Who would pay only $1.79 for a roundish brown pad? People would know what it was. This thoug... 

Figure drawing

October 3rd, 2013

At one point in his career (1620), Antwerp's Peter Paul Rubens had 80 apprentices sketching figures in charcoal and making pounce patterns. In the 1920s every American art school held figure drawing classes. The Roaring '20s may have been roaring but... 

Take a nap

September 23rd, 2013

I've always been keen on "don't rest--run." Often a quick jog after lunch seemed to perk me up and send me back to the studio with a new sense of adventure. Now I'm not so sure. Strictly between you and me, I'm now taking naps. This follows recent r... 

A safe place

September 22nd, 2013

Yesterday I was reading "Solemate" by Lauren Mackler. It's about being alone and what to do about it. In the U.S. there are currently 95.7 million singles, some by choice, others by default. The main reason is a missing husband. Lauren's book offers ... 

Habitual tendencies

September 22nd, 2013

I'm talking about those automatic mannerisms that interfere with our creativity while at the same time contributing to our uniqueness and style. Either way, they're worth knowing about. With a bit of scraping around in your history, you can often tra... 

A new angle

September 16th, 2013

Workshoppers seem to want critiques, and some instructors insist on them. I've always wondered about the value of crits. There are several kinds. One is where the instructor crits every work one at a time, either one-on-one or with the group. Another... 

Nobody knows whats under there

September 8th, 2013

The other day I was talking to my friend Jack Monk. Jack's an irascible guy who is always devising new and creative ways to hold himself up. His latest is doing Mylar overlays on the problematic parts of his paintings. One acrylic landscape he brough... 

Rare and fair

September 8th, 2013

After my recent letter about the art market returning to happy times, I received a lot of personal emails. Some were from folks who said I was a spoiled brat and out of touch with the misery of today's painters. Others told me I had a better grasp of... 

Mountain rules

September 8th, 2013

Trudging around in the Bugaboos, I'm thinking how rules are meant to be broken. Having said that, there are a few rules for acrylic and oil painters that are well worth following. My only reason for backing up my helicopter and dumping them off on yo... 

Decisions, decisions

September 8th, 2013

Choreographer Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit," describes her morning routine of rising early and going through the same morning rituals; same coffee, same bun. She puts on the same leotards, goes down the same elevator to the same street corner, p... 

The 37 Club

August 25th, 2013

As occasional workshop givers, my daughter Sara and I find there are a few artists we can't help. Some of these folks may be accomplished professionals with developed careers, but most are in some way simply "blocked"... Trying to work around these b... 

Is silence golden?

August 25th, 2013

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 conc... 

Telephonitis

August 5th, 2013

Among the responses to my recent "Distractions" letter, more than 150 artists named the telephone as a major excuse for not working. Marcie Maynard of South Acworth, New Hampshire wrote, "The phone is my biggest distraction. Intending to go to the st... 

The smell of art

August 1st, 2013

Lori Deal of San Jose, California wrote: "I bought an acrylic painting on Craigslist. It's a jazz musician playing a saxophone but it smells badly of cigarette smoke. You can smell it when sitting a few feet away. I wonder if I can place it in an en... 

The points of crits

July 20th, 2013

From time to time many of us are called on to critique the work of others. In the classic formula, the "critter" stands beside a well-lit easel as the paintings of a roomful of "crittees" are brought forward one at a time. With each presentation the ... 

Spotting a fake

July 12th, 2013

Recently, Doug Payne of Waddington's Art Auctioneers in Toronto, Ontario wrote, "A painting came into our auction house and I'm not sure if this was an early work (dated '62) or it's not a painting by you. I've sold a few of your paintings over the y... 

Framing and matting

July 7th, 2013

Recently Michele Sinkez of Hebron, Connecticut wrote, "I overheard a collector say that white mats are a poor choice because they distract from the art. He said that deep-toned or neutral mats are best. Are colored and oversized mats the current tren... 

The trouble with green

July 7th, 2013

Yesterday, Gale Courtney of Manson, WA, USA wrote, "I am not happy trying to mix greens and want to know the secret! Your twice-weekly letters make me scurry out to my studio and begin to paint--except for trees, grasses and leprechauns. Thanks, Gale... 

Painting in public

June 27th, 2013

Yesterday, Susan Winslow of Dana Point, California wrote, "Last weekend I took a two-day workshop from the excellent plein air painter Frank Eber. Now a few of us are going to meet tomorrow to paint. We have the equipment, but are intimidated at pain... 

What happens at Magic Hour?

June 23rd, 2013

Recently, Donna Lafferty of Austen, Texas wrote, "Could you talk some more about the use of Magic Hour light? What happens to the spectrum at this time?" Thanks, Donna. We can learn a lot about the hour before sunset by looking at the work of the Spa... 

The winner effect

June 16th, 2013

In good times and bad it looks like 10% of the galleries do 90% of the business. Similarly, 10% of the artists sell 90% of the art. With the number of folks taking up painting these days and the volume of artists graduating from art schools, this fig... 

Recently, I had the opportunity to look over the shoulders of two painters who were giving demonstrations on the same day. The first was almost deliriously positive and bubbly about his work, his wonderful life as an artist and his prior successes...... 

Miles of smiles

June 13th, 2013

In the National Art Museum in Beijing, the walls are loaded with smiles. Mao is smiling. The threadbare peasants are smiling. The farm-girls are smiling. The new president Xi Jinping, just chosen on March 14, 2013, is smiling. A guy who's out cold an... 

Immortal art

May 31st, 2013

I'm laptopping you from a persimmon grove in a corner of an extensive archaeological site known as "The Terracotta Warriors." Thousands of (mostly Chinese) tourists are grabbing souvenirs and thronging into an arena–sized building known as Pit No. 1.... 

Identical twins

May 23rd, 2013

Recently, Steve Koch of Gresham, Oregon wrote, "A friend experienced a situation where a painting of his was sold and then another client came forward and asked to have an identical one. I'm concerned about the artist's reputation and any problems th... 

Daily studio rituals

May 23rd, 2013

Much has been written about the creativity-stimulating rituals of writers because, well, they wrote about it. Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day, Hemingway drank to write, prolific novelist George Simenon (400 books) made love to over 10,000 women ... 

The Holmesian artist

May 5th, 2013

Deducing info from minor nuances, in the manner of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's perceptive Sherlock Holmes, is a prime skill for artists. "You see, but you do not observe," says Holmes to his sidekick Dr. Watson. Looking at the work of many artists, I'm ... 

First prize

April 28th, 2013

The other day I was rummaging through some old schooldays papers--report cards, notes from girls, etc, and I came across a blue card for First Prize in Junior Watercolour. Scratching my brain and reading the material on the card, I realized this was ... 

Straightforward advice

April 21st, 2013

Yesterday, Carolyn H. WarmSun of Montclair, California asked, "Do you ever do telephone consultations with artists? If so, at what price and how are they arranged? I am imagining us both on the phone in front of computers where you can see my website... 

When do ideas happen?

April 11th, 2013

Recent research, aimed at finding specific triggers that result in good ideas, better solutions and bouts of creativity, has confirmed my own favourite times when stuff happens. Here are a few: When we step away: Focusing at your workstation doesn'... 

The alchemy of art

April 7th, 2013

Painting is not a witch's brew. With applied curiosity and reason, a dedicated student can grasp the processes. Often straightforward and practical, the best processes are the ones you figure out for yourself. Further, there are laws. They're not lik... 

Spinoza and me

March 31st, 2013

You might wonder what a 17th century Dutch-Jewish philosopher has to do with art. For me it all started in Philosophy 101 at Victoria College. Roger Bishop, our prof, had brilliantly taken us through Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Rene Des... 

The root of passion

March 21st, 2013

"What is passion?" If all the creativity coaches put their heads together to try to figure out the main question they get asked, that would be it. If there was an easy answer they'd all be millionaires, and so would their clients. For those who don't... 

The story in art

March 14th, 2013

At the end of the remarkable film, "Life of Pi," we are given the choice of two stories. One story is believable and quite predictable, the other implausible and wonderful. It's easy to choose the wonderful, implausible version. We need good stories.... 

The art of demo-doing

March 8th, 2013

You need to have your stuff ready and squeezed out. Quickly tell everyone what you intend to do and how long it might take. Brief demos are best. Tell people to feel free to blurt out questions as you go along. Make it clear that a question asked by ...